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l^tttgna Olnnaolata 

Religious of the Visitation, B. V. M, 
OF CoMo, Italy, 
Died in the Odor of Sanctity, wig, 

A VICTIM for peace 



translation 

M. S. PINE 



ip'i 



I 



3 

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A Professed Choir Nun of the 

(§tbtx of % lftBttatt0«, S. H. M. 
COMO, ITALY 

OR 

"THE TENDERNESSES OF 
THE LOVE OF JESUS 
FOR A LITTLE SOU L/* 

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f-ev'^v-e. ^cJ^ Ao....X<.^^ .^ ^WbufevCt ) 



PUBLISHED FOR 

(6?0r30t0mtt Iftattaltntt Qlnttn^nt 

WASHINGTON, D. C. 
I. 






Joseph Bruneau, S.S., D.D., 

Censor Deputatis. 



Smprtmafur: 

James Cardinal Gibbons 

Archbishop of Baltimore. 

Baltimore, January 2, 1921. 



Abbiamo veduto ed esaminato I'opusculo e, non 
solo me permettiamo la stampa, ma lo raccomandiamo 
per la maggiore diffusione in gran pro delle anime. 

_|- Alfonso Vescovo. 

CoMO^ Agosto 1918. 



Copyright, Sisters of the Visitation, 
Georgetown, Washington, D. C. 



g)CU611475 
APR -4 1921 



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A Brief Sketch of the Life and Virtues 
OF OUR DEAR SISTER 

Sentgna Qlnnanlata 3Fprrprn 

Deceased in our Monastery of the Visitation, B. V. M. 

of COMO. LOMBARDY, 

September i, 1916, aged 31 years and 25 days: 

of Religious Profession, 6 years, 9 months and 7 days, 

OF THE Rank of Choir Sisters 

Blessed is the man zvhom thou shalt instruct, O Lord : 
and shalt teach him out of thy law. — Ps. XCIII. 12. 



translated from the 

Qlnmmutitty (Hxxtnlnv nf Qlomo 

by 

M. S. Pine. 



FOREWORD. 



In the life of Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero, the saintly Visitan- 
dine of Como, Italy, we have a model of pure, beautiful childhood, 
maidenhood, and later, of extraordinary sanctity in the religious life. 
From her early years we witness a condescending familiarity on the 
part of Jesus Christ that would challenge our faith had He not said, 
*'My delights are to be with the children of men ;'' had He not annihi- 
lated Himself even to the death of the Cross for each individual soul ; 
had He not, in giving us His Sacred Heart as a new pledge of His 
tenderness, uttered His heart-rending cry of love for souls and His 
ineffable longing for their love in return. 

The heavenly descents of the God-Man toward His creatures 
should not surprise us. Yet at every page of this wonderful story 
of "The Delicacies and Tendernesses of the Love of Jesus for a 
Little SouL" we are awed into silence, transported, as it were, into 
a, celestial atmosphere, where, like Mary, we are at the feet of Jesus 
listening to His Gospel of sanctity. 

And these pages present to us the amazing spectacle, in our own 
degenerate days, of a maiden who at twelve years could immolate her- 
self as a victim of love to God, ready to suffer all privations, all 
tortures of mind and body, yea, to be the sport of the powers of hell, 
even, if she might but console the Heart of the Redeemer of the 
world by helping to win it back to Him — this world gone so far 
astray. 

To what sublime heights of mystical knowledge Jesus uplifted 
her soul ! And to corresponding depths of humiHation He lowered 
her ! He summoned her to ever-varying modes of sacrifice, opened 
to her deserts of temptation where, plunged in a desolation of heart 
that became more intense, and yet more desirable, as divine love 
grew more seraphic. Sister Benigna Consolata became ravished with 
suffering, and sought only to share the very agonies of the Cruci- 
fied. 

To renounce nature at every moment, at every breath of life, was 
not enough ; creatures must lend their aid, and in a thousand ways 
lacerating to the sensitive heart, help on the great work of sanctifica- 



tion ; nay, the powers of darkness will be permitted to approach and 
assault her spirit, still in its baptismal innocence, and with terrors 
unspeakable, invading even her wasted physical frame, will strive 
to wrest her from the Heart of her Divine Spouse. 

Yet did not Jesus Himself, after the glorious apparition of the 
Spirit-Dove in the opened Heavens, and the Voice of His Heavenly 
Father proclaiming His Divine Mission, suffer the temptations of 
His fiendish enemy? Did He not allow Him even a transient pos- 
session of His Sacred Person? So shall we wonder or tremble or 
be scandalized when, with His ''Little Secretary, the Apostle of 
His Mercy," we pass from the fragrant airs of Paradise — her Sol- 
emn Profession with Love — to the deadly atmosphere of the enemy 
of all good, to her last struggle with her satanic lifelong foe? 

In these Colloquies we are matriculating in a truly Divine School. 
The mystical life of union with God and the sure, safe and speedy 
means of reaching it, are taught us in the very terms of simplicity 
with which Jesus spoke to His disciples when He walked the road- 
sides or sat on the mountain slopes of Judea. And the rays of His 
Mercy stream from every page for the most grievous sinners who 
will come trusting to Him as to a divine Brother. 

Our Lord is glorifying in a marvellous manner Sister Benigna 
Consolata, whose interior life with Jesus on earth was so secret, so 
hidden, so guarded even from the dear Sisters who were her daily 
companions, that only after her blessed death was the stupendous 
revelation given them by the Mother Superior who had so ably 
guided her and by the Ecclesiastical Superiors whose direction had 
ever been marked by supernatural light and prudence. Jesus had 
willed this profound secrecy. "Only after your death shall your 
writings be known," He repeatedly promised her. 

This Life tells us that we have saints with us always. The Past is 
shining with its aureoles, as multitudinous as the stars of heaven. 
But the Present, too, is weaving aureoles, and gloriously, from the 
rays of sanctity spread over the world — in the hearts of little ones, 
in hearts growing seraphic in the shadow of the Tabernacle, in 
hearts, armed with weapons forged on Calvary, now fighting the 
enemies of Christ — the world and the flesh — and defying the great 
arch-enemy with the Cross which conquered him. 

Is one of these aureoles yours f 

M. S. PINE. 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



THE LITTLE SECRETARY OF JESUS 

(I88549I6) 



®nli| tlje artinna of Jljf Just 

&m(U Btuf ?t and bloHHam in tl|? liUBt. 



I 

BIRTH OF MARIA CONSOLATA; 
HER CHILDHOOD AND EARLY 
YOUTH. 

It is with feelings of indescribable emotion that we undertake to 
write the incomparable life of our angelic Sister Benigna Consolata. 
To our great regret, we can give only an imperfect idea of the beau- 
ty of this privileged soul so tenderly beloved by the Divine Master, 
who in His intimate and continual colloquies with His little spouse, 
named her familiarly the Benjamin of His Heart. Ever docile in 
listening to the divine voice, her eyes constantly fixed on the Heart 
of her God, so good, so tender, so merciful, our beloved vSister at- 
tained, in a very short time, to the highest perfection, so that the 
Divine Spouse, looking upon her with complacency, could say to 
her: "Thy heart is a garden inclosed to Me, a Paradise in which 
I take my delights." 

Our dear Sister was born in Turin on August 6, 1885, the Feast 
of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, of distinguished and very pious 
parents, — Signor Sebastiano Ferrero and Signora CaroHna Pansa. 
On the following day, the Feast of St. Gaetano, she received the 
grace of Baptism, with the names Maria, Consolata, Rosalia, Theresa, 
Philomena and Gaetano. Her god-father, Ignatius Barbesio, was a 
fervent Catholic, as well as her god-mother, Signora Rosalia 
Bertagna, a pious widow. 

If the happy birth of the sweet infant gave joy to the family, 
the Angels on high must have contemplated with pleasure her who 
had already been named their sister. The beautiful name of Maria 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



Consolata was, as it were, a happy presage of what she was to be- 
come later — the sweet consoler of the Heart of Jesus. We doubt 
not that Our Lord Himself suggested the names He wished for 
His future spouse- 

Signora Ferrero, to her great regret, was obliged to intrust her 
dear treasure to a nurse in the vicinity of Turin. Suffering made 
no delay in marking our little one with its seal ; her nourishment was 
insufficient to preserve health, and she declined from day to day- 
Fortunately, her mother perceived it; in great distress yet placing 
all her confidence in God, she repaired, full of faith, to the Church 
of St. Dalmazzo, and kneeling before the altar of Our Lady of 
Loretto, prayed fervently for assistance and counsel from the Im- 
maculate Virgin. She who was never invoked in vain showed as 
usual her power and goodness; and the sweet babe, transferred 
to the care of another nurse, soon regained strength and health. 

When Maria was fourteen months old, Signora Ferrero took her 
home and lavished upon her all the care and attention of her mater- 
nal loving heart. She beheld this pure Lily, which already captiva- 
ted the eyes of Jesus, grow and flourish daily. The pious and vigil- 
anlj mother rarely left her little Maria, and then only to intrust her 
to her own sister, Signora Rosalia, or[ to a servant of tried fidelity. 

Having attained the age of five years, Maria began to attend the 
common school. The first year she went alone. Afterward her 
younger sister Adeline became her faithful companion- The latter, 
deprived of the maternal caresses, fell into a kind of agony on 
arriving at school, shedding such a deluge of tears that no one 
could calm or console her but Maria, whose sweet and tender words 
overflowed from a heart full of affection' and compassion. 

Three years later Signora Ferrero, desiring to secure for her 
children a good education and have them worthily prepared for 
their First Communion, placed them in the boarding-school of the 
Sisters of St- Joseph. Thenceforward Adeline became more and 
more the object of the care and tenderness of her elder sister; for 
the Academy being at some distance from her home, the little girls 
were entered as half-boarders. "Maria Consolata," said Adeline, 
"divined my little trials, and knew how to cheer away my melan- 
choly; indeed she watched over me with all the kindness of my 
dear mamma." 

We know nothing of the first meeting of the Eucharistic Jesus 
with the privileged child of His Heart. But how can we doubt 



8 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus'* 



that the Divine Master gave His first kiss to His future spouse with 
ineffable tenderness, and that, on this blessed day, He took full 
possession of that heart which was to correspond so fully to His 
love? We have two copy-books containing summaries of sermons, 
entitled: "Souvenir of Holy Exercises Preparatory to my First 
Communion-" These pages are written in the small hand of a child ; 
the writing is beautiful, the style flowing, the thought elevated and 
touched with a ravishing simplicity. She names these pages her 
"Spiritual Edifice." Below this title we read the following prayer: 
"O good Jesus, come into my poor heart, come and help me raise 
my spiritual edifice; build it so well that it may merit to be placed 
by Thee one day in the celestial Jerusalem." It was during the 
same year that Maria received the Sacrament of Confirmation. 

Blessed are those who had the honor and happiness of preparing 
the angelic maiden for her first interview with the Spouse of virgins, 
and who directed her so young into the ways of sanctity. The Lord 
had such marvelous designs over this soul! Our dear Sister ever 
kept a faithful remembrance of her pious teachers and alludes to 
them in her writings with loving gratitude. 

Maria returned afterward to finish her studies in the common 
school, where her application won for her notable success. On 
Thursday, the weekly holiday, she went to receive religious instruc- 
tion. Although still very young, her upright soul was avid of the 
divine Word: she studied the catechism with her whole soul, and 
meditated lovingly upon it in silence and recollection. Her excellent 
teacher, Signora Capra, had promised to give a prize at the end 
of the year to the best pupil in the class. But in order to deserve 
it a rigorous silence was enjoined. This was a hard trial for little 
girls of that age. "Cost what it will," said Maria Consolata, "I 
must obtain the prize." Later inj relating this fact to our Honored 
Mother, she added; "O dear Mother, if you only knew what vio- 
lence I had to do myself in order to keep silence! Sometimes I 
was seized with such a desire to speak that I bit my tongue to pre- 
vent my yielding to the temptation." 

Maria Consolata was about to terminate her classes with honor 
when Signora Ferrero, hearing that a Lyceum, for young girls was 
opened in our city (Como), placed her dear child there in order 
that she might complete her studies. Unforeseen circumstances 
caused the closing of this establishment at the end of a few months. 
She was then placed under the care of the Ladies of the Institute 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



of the Sacred Heart at Turin. There her rare virtues began to 
attract attention. Not only was her conduct irreproachable, but so 
edifying that her teachers feared not to propose her as a model to 
all her companions. Far from experiencing vanity over it, her 
modesty was so perfect, her humility so sincere, that one would 
have said there was question of the praise of another. One day 
her professor, seized with admiration at the beauty and precision 
of a drawing, said to her before every one: "I would like to place 
by your side a phonograph which would repeat continually : "Brava ! 
Brava !" (Excellent ! Excellent !) Maria Consolata, in no wise elated, 
pursued her task tranquilly in her own sweet way. 

While her beautiful intellect was being enriched with useful and 
varied knowledge, her soul was assuredly not neglected- Contin- 
uing to assist weekly at the courses of religious instruction, Maria 
Consolata felt her faith become more and more lively and the flame 
of her' charity more and more ardent. To visit Jesus in His Sac- 
rament of Love was her sweetest happiness, and her colloquies with 
Our Lord in the Holy Tabernacle fertilized the precious seed cast 
into her young heart with profusion and preserved by our beloved 
Sister with such rare fidelity. To converse with the Divine Prisoner 
was her favorite exercise; hence she arose very early in the morn- 
ing to go to Church. One year her family went into the country 
to pass the summer; the church was very far from the hotel, and 
the dear child, who burned with desire to receive her God, had to 
content herself frequently with a spiritual communion. This was 
a painful sacrifice ; but she said not a word, uttered not a complaint 
viewing in this as in all things the adorable Will of God. To in- 
demnify herself, however, she devoted her time to good works, 
collected oflferings for poor churches and orphanages, and en- 
deavored with all her power to shed around her devotion to the 
Blessed Virgin and the Saints. 

Our dear Sister knew nothing of human respect. During the 
summer while boarding in the hotel, she never failed to make the 
Sign of the Cross and say the Benedicite before the repast and Grace 
at the end. All eyes were fixed upon her, but she took no notice of 
it. However, her sweet piety at last attracted the admiration of 
all present, and one very distinguished lady followed her example. 

Maria had an absolute aversion for worldly amusements and 
often deprived herself of the most innocent pleasures, loved by 
those of her age ; but like all great souls the contemplation of na- 

10 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



ture captivated her; hence her greatest happiness was to make an 
excursion into the mountains. Later, when a religious, while ad- 
miring the beauty of the mountains of Lombardy which encircle 
our Monastery, she would recall the joyous parties which she had 
formerly shared on the hills of Turin; and all in smiles, her hands 
joined im the attitude of prayer common to her, she would say : "O 
how pure were those pleasures !" Once she ascended two hundred 
and sixty steps leading to a Sanctuary dedicated to the Blessed 
Virgin, and situated in a little Alpine village in the midst of rocks 
and precipices. But her piety was so ardent that one would have 
said she experienced neither fatigue nor weariness although the 
pilgrimage lasted nearly three hours. With what love the sweet 
Queen of heaven must have welcomed the fervent young girl, who 
to prove her love had feared neither the length nor the pain of the 
ascent ! i ^ 

Frequently while going for a walk to Coaze, she would pause 
half way, and ascending an elevated hill whence one could enjoy 
the splendid panorama of the whole plain of Turin, Maria Consolata 
would contemplate this grand tableau in mysterious silence ; but her 
glance went far beyond it to descry, lost like a point in space, the 
object of her dearest aspirations, the Monastery of the Visitation 
of Santa-Maria. 



II 



II 

FIRST DIVINE COMMUNICA- 
TIONS 



FROM HER DIARY. 

At what hour did our dear sister hear the Divine Call? When 
did Jesus name her for the first time His Joy and His Benjamin? 
We do not know- The first pages of her precious manuscripts are 
dated November, 1902; she was then about seventeen years old; 
but everything leads us to believe that Our Lord had spoken to her 
long before. "One day," she writes, "my soul felt sweetly attracted 
and I heard the voice of my God; it was so sweet that I scarcely 
dared to make a movement for fear of hearing it no longer, and 
while listening I wept with emotion. Jesus told me that He would 
give Himself to me, that He would be to me as a mother to a child, 
and that He would furnish me occasions of suffering for Him." 

After this revelation we find recorded in her notes an incident 
which we think we ought to cite here, as it shows the vigilance she 
exercised over herself. One day having soiled her dress she was 
much grieved and sought at once some means of removing the ugly 
spot. Suddenly entering into herself she noticed that when she 
happened to soil her soul she was not so grieved, and her heart was 
filled with sadness. 

About this time the Divine Master manifested His desire that she 
should live in the world as if she were already in the cloister, rec- 
ommending her to have Him alone as the end of her life and actions ; 
she was not to burden herself any more than possible for her neigh- 
bor, so that God might have the larger part. He explained to His 
beloved His mysterious "Sitio," (^7 thirst'-) promising to give her 
a thirst for the salvation of souls which would make her avid of 
sufferings and humiliations. He warned her to prepare for the 
conflict, which would not fail her if she wished to be ever faithful 
to the operations of grace and to conquer her rebellious nature. Lis- 

12 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus** 



ten to her reply : "O Jesus, do with me all that Thou wilt ; I place 
in Thee all my confidence and I abandon myself to Thy loving cares ; 
henceforth I wish to serve Thee in peace, joy and love, as Thou Thy- 
self hast taught me ; but let me implore Thee to grant me the grace 
of knowing Thee that I may love Thee with all my heart, and of 
knowing myself that I may humble myself profoundly." 

God could not resist such prayers. We shall see this verified as 
we advance in our recital; and we may affirm that it was the pro- 
found contempt she had for herself that attracted to our dear Sis- 
ter such exceptional graces. On one occasion being tortured with 
the fear of having offended Jesus He deigned Himself to reassure 
her: "Take care, Maria, the demon wishes to discourage thee by 
persuading thee that thou hast committed a fault; thou hast not 
yielded; despise the temptation and have confidence in Me." 

This delicacy of conscience our dear Sister carried even to scru- 
pulosity. She suffered and was afflicted at the least shadow of in- 
fidelity. This trial was her daily martyrdom, the more so, since, 
in spite of her extreme timidity and naturally fearful disposition, 
she was called to ascend rapidly the holy way of perfect confidence 
in God. Every day Jesus spoke to her to instruct and fortify her. 
The infinite tenderness of His Sacred Heart as well as His burning 
desire to draw to Himself all hearts by the sweet bonds of confi- 
dence and love, overflows like a divine torrent in the writings 
of His dear confidant. Let us listen to the Adorable Master: "I 
am going to make of thy soul," He said, "a masterpiece of My 
grace ; take care not to interrupt its beneficent action ; try to second 
My inspirations and to be faithful to them. Mortify the natural taste 
thou hast for so much speaking and Hstening ; and when thou seest 
that nature is getting the upper hand, do just the contrary to what 
it desires in order to subject it completely to grace." 

Painful aridities were generally her portion. On the other hand 
the enemy of all good tortured her with terrible doubts. The divine 
communications even were to her a source of anguish she had such 
a fear of being deceived, and this very fear came from the demon ; 
but her confidence soon regained its strength so that she was never 
vanquished; and with Jesus and for the love of Jesus she escaped 
victorious and triumphant over the snare laid by Satan. 

"Thy soul," said the Divine Master to her, "shall mature in si- 
lence, in affliction and abnegation; prepare it well, for I wish to 
make it the instrument of My designs. I have chosen thee because 

13 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



thou art wretched and miserable, in order that thou mayst attribute 
nothing to thyself and know that all good comes from God." 

Yes, it was toward this nothing that placed in Him all her confi- 
dence that Jesus condescended with ineffable goodness. He wished 
to converse continually with His little spouse, who was already 
bound to Him by four vows, as we shall see later. He consoled her 
in her sufferings, and sometimes reproached her, but always with 
divine sweetness and gentleness. 

''Maria," He said, "no longer go begging the love of creatures; 
were they to give themselves entirely to thee thou w^ouldst not be 
satisfied. God alone can suffice for thee. Maria, thou hast need of 
a heart which loves thee, w^hich understands thee; it is the Heart 
of God thou needest. Speak to Me as thou wouldst to an earthly 
friend, to whom one tells everything. I know thee, I share thy suf- 
ferings, I offer Myself to be thy Model and on this thou must care- 
fully form thyself. Live in such a manner that Jesus may truly 
live in thee and rule all thy actions, thy desires and thy will. Dost 
thou understand with what perfection thou shouldst act if thou 
wouldst manifest Jesus living and reigning in thee? Even when 
thou art enduring cruel interior sufferings, thy countenance must 
appear smiling. I desire thou shouldst be sweet and cordial toward 
all, but especially toward those who give thee occasions of immola- 
tion and sacrifice." 

On November i6, 1902, at the beginning of a Spiritual Retreat, 
our dear Sister wTote with childish candor the following resolution : 
"I wish to become a Saint; and with the assistance of Our Lord 
I begin today the work of the sanctification of my soul. May all 
be for the greater glory of God ! I must consider myself as a noth- 
ing and fight mercilessly against my nature." 

The next day her Divine Spouse came to encourage her : "Thou 
hast taken the resolution to become holy: this is well and thou 
must not fail; but it is not to an ordinary sanctity thou art called; 
thou must aim at the most sublime perfection." 

On hearing these words our dear Sister cast a glance upon her 
nothingness, and seized Avith fright she said to her good Master: 
"My Jesus, is it not pride and presumption on my part to aspire to 
an end so elevated, I who am weakness itself?" 

"It would be indeed," He answered, "if thou didst depend on thy 
own strength ; but if thou wilt hope for all from God, He will sus. 
tain thee in thy conflicts and will help thee to surmount all the 



14 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



obstacles that could hinder the reign of pure love in thy soul." — "I 
am confused and troubled," replied the humble child, ''at being 
favored with so many graces, I who lead a life so little conformed 
to Thy divine will, when so many fervent souls would draw far 
greater profit from them-" 

Our dear Sister feared that the abundance of favors with which 
she was loaded would be to the detriment of others. Her incom- 
parable Master, touched with this exquisite delicacy, gave her a 
loving instruction, showing her the entire liberty souls have in the 
choice of good or evil. He assured her that He invited all to choose 
the good by following the sweet attractions of His love; then He 
added : "Pray much for sinners, especially on these days that precede 
the Paschal Feasts, and I will grant all thou shalt ask. I place thee 
as an intermediary between poor sinners and thy Heavenly Spouse ; 
plead their cause then and say to Me; My Jesus, wilt Thou let 
these souls be lost for whom Thou didst die on the Cross? Thou 
art the Resurrection and the Life : be so then to all these hearts 
buried so long in the darkness of death. From this time forward 
I shall thank Thee for the victory Thou dost gain over the infernal 
enemy, who held them in the slavery of sin, since Thou Thyself hast 
assured me that I shall obtain all I ask of Thee with confidence." 

This prayer, dictated by Jesus to our dear little Sister, is the first 
we have found in her writings; to this precious ring will be added 
many others ; and they will form an admirable chain of prayers 
all impregnated with faith and love- 

"My Jesus," she wrote on March 29, "pardon me the liberty I 
take in speaking thus to Thee ; Thou canst do all things ; grant then 
that men may know Thee, love Thee, and serve Thee with all the 
respect and love Thou dost merit." And Jesus responded; "I use 
creatures for this end, making them the instruments of My Mercy. 
I choose Myself those souls destined to revive the Christian spirit; 
I form them Myself ; I overload them with My graces, and so pre- 
pare them for their mission. Such souls have been in the past; 
they live at present; and I will raise up others in the future. Thou 
art one of these souls, Maria ; now thou art exercising thy mission 
in the family ; later in the Monastery, and at last thou shalt exercise 
it from the cloister in the world, which shall be embalmed with the 
sweet perfume of the virtues I am cultivating in thee with so much 
love." 

The vocation of our dear Sister ripened more and more ; she had 



15 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



an irresistible attraction for our Holy Institute; the piety of her 
family, the frequent reception of the Sacraments, the reading of 
excellent books which Canon Boccardo lent her from her twelfth 
year until her entry among us, all contributed to render her desire 
of the religious lifei more vehement. While awaiting the means of 
entering into the blessed Ark, she was the Angel of her family, their 
charm and their happiness, devoting herself joyously to every kind 
of duty, especially to the accounts and correspondence of the house. 

Our dear Sister had two brothers, one of whom, John, a distin- 
guished physician, gave brilHant promise for the future. She loved 
him with a special love. But the Lord was about to strike a great blow 
to the loving heart of His privileged child, bruising it and drawing 
her entirely to Himself. John fell ill, and Maria became his self- 
constituted nurse. She never left his side, lavishing upon him all 
those delicate attentions and that tender devotedness which sisterly 
love alone can inspire. What anguish, what fears, what sacrifices 
were hers during those days of trial! She was consoled in seeing 
the admirable patience and resignation of the young patient, while 
his virtuous sister poured into his heart the balm of her sweet 
compassion. How often she had to triumph over the revolts of na- 
ture before duties painful to accomplish ! One day, imitating St. 
Catherine of Siena, she conquered heroically an indescribable re- 
pugnance. O we cannot doubt that after this sublime act, Jesus, 
the sweet Jesus, attracted her to His Sacred Heart and made her 
drink long draughts of the sweetness of His divine tenderness ! 

John's heart overflowed with loving gratitude toward his charita- 
ble nurse; and often to show her how much good he derived from 
her presence and holy words, he would say to her: "O you are 
more necessary to me than food!" Later, when in the Monastery, 
recalling these sorrowful days, our Sister wrote : *'Our Lord wished 
to detach me from everything, that I might be His alone. In taking 
away from me that brother so beloved. He began to dig in my heart 
a void which He alone could fill-" In spite of the skilful care and 
devotedness of his family the dear young patient declined from 
day to day. With edifying piety he received the Last Sacraments 
and prepared for the great journey to eternity. Maria Consolata, 
calm and resigned, controlling her sorrow, read for him the act of 
acceptance of death, composed by the Venerable Cafasso, desiring 
to obtain for her dying brother the Plenary Indulgence. He ex- 
pired peacefully in her arms, surrounded by his weeping family. 

i6 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



Our beloved Sister, forgetting her own sorrow, became the consoler 
of her good parents, and of the brother and sister who still remained. 

It is to the latter we owe the interesting details of the life of 
Sister Benigna from her birth to her entry into our Monastery. 
Adeline pretended that she had been a source of suffering to her 
elder sister. "Being mischievous and capricious," she said, "I often 
caused her pain which she bore in silence." This is difficult to 
believe, for see what we find in the writings of our dear Sister: — 
"The Lord in His immense goodness gave me an angel in the person 
of my younger sister, with whom I passed beautiful years, delicious 
days at home, living one heart and one soul with my beloved Adeline". 
With what tenderness she spoke to us of her at the recreations ! She 
confessed that in leaving the paternal mansion she endured a cruel 
conflict of soul, having a great love for her God and a tender af- 
fection for her family: — her heart was broken at the bare thought 
of separation; and on the other hand she burned with desire to 
shut herself up in the Cloister. 

Jesus did not forsake her. He was ever near her attracting her 
to Himself with infinite delicacy by His sweet invitations. Every- 
thing in her exterior revealed the interior beauty of her soul, which 
the Divine Master replenished with graces and virtues. In the 
meantime, no one suspected that the God strong and terrible, whose 
glance alone makes the earth tremble and shakes the highest mount- 
ains, was condescending so benignly toward the humble child, favor- 
ing her continually with His divine conversation. Only the guide 
of her soul, Canon Boccardo, was her confidant. Maria opened 
her heart to him with infantine candor; and it is to this worthy 
priest we owe the happiness of possessing her first writings, com- 
mencing in 1902, as we have said, and continued until her coming 
among us. Struck at once with admiration and astonishment at 
beholding the marvellous progress of his penitent in the way of 
perfection, enchanted at seeing her so humble, so obedient, the 
wise Director, under pretext of knowing better what passed within 
her, ordered her to write all that the "Voice" said to her- "In real- 
ity," he confessed, "I wished to nourish my soul with the delicious 
food served by the infinitely good God to His privileged child, and 
relish it at my ease." 

Maria was conscious of a great repugnance on receiving this obe- 
dience, but, humbly and submissively, she set herself to work at once 
to accomplish it. Her multiplied occupations left her little leisure; 



17 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



and we cannot but wonder how she was able to perform a fask 
of such magnitude, and this unknown to all around her, as she had 
been wisely counselled. We have under our eyes hundreds of pages 
the greater part of which is written in pencil without correction or 
erasure. One can perceive neither haste nor apprehension ; and yet 
she had to be ingenious and exercise continual watchfulness in order 
to hide herself from all eyes. But Jesus was there. Taking more 
and more possession of her Vv^hole being, He aided her, guarding 
her visibly, revealing to her the future, and granting her the gift 
of discernment of spirits. These exceptional gifts, we repeat, be- 
came the torment of the poor child, who, naturally timid, was fright- 
ened at such extraordinary ways, sometimes so dangerous. Happily 
she had unlimited confidence in her Spiritual Father ; her obedience 
became her buckler — her defense against the enemy who had al- 
ready sworn an implacable hatred to the little favorite of Jesus. 

Let us return now to the journal of our dear Sister, and we shall 
relish together the divine teachings of the Master; we shall pene- 
trate more deeply into the soul of His beloved, and, discovering 
there the treasures of His graces, bless Him for so many marvels. 
As to ourselves, who had the happiness of receiving her into our 
Community and living in her angelic company, we can never cease 
offering to God our humble gratitude. 

On April 3, 1903, Maria prepared to make a general Confession, 
so to correspond to the desire of Jesus. He asked her which she 
would prefer — the gift of sensible consolation and the grace to weep 
over her sins, or perfect renunciation of every satisfaction in order 
to obtain the conversion of a sinner. "O Jesus", she answered, ''take 
away everything; I desire only Thee and Thy glory! If this will be 
useful to that soul and to others, take away from me every conso- 
lation ; I sacrifice all to Thee ; let the enemy tempt me ; let him make 
me believe that I am lost ; that I am an object of hatred in Thy eyes ; 
let him torture my soul with vain fears for involuntary faults; — 
I accept all. I implore only Thy grace that I may not offend Thee 
in this painful state, through lack of confidence in Thy infinite good- 
ness. It will be a sweet balm to the wounds of my heart to know 
that Thine is consoled by the return of so many wandering souls. 
O may they be numerous, my Jesus !" 

And Jesus accepted the generous immolation. The state that 
His privileged spouse has just described will be, as it were, the his- 

18 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



tory of her life, intermingled, like that of her predecessor, our 
Blessed Sister Saint Margaret Mary, with indescribable sweetness- 
es; but more frequently cruel torments will be her portion. 

Let us listen again : — "I am sometimes so oppressed with sorrow, 
so troubled through the fear of not corresponding with God's grace, 
that I can scarcely trust in His goodness- It is principally in pray- 
er that my sufferings are augmented: while there I ought not and 
wish not to be mindful of aught but God ; but alas ! all sorts of 
thoughts present themselves to my mind. The demon, delighted, 
takes hold of the occasion to torment me. Overwhelmed, I am 
tempted to leave off prayer through dread of making it badly; but 
I do not yield, and continue in spite of suffering. If I could tell 
my sufferings to some one it seems to me I should be relieved ; but 
God alone knows these interior pains. When I would manifest my 
state to my Director, I have so slight a remembrance of it that I 
cannot find terms to express myself ; for these are spiritual suffer- 
ings that at times I myself cannot comprehend-'' 

The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was her great attrac- 
tion; in that profoundly religious family, the picture of the Sacred 
Heart, placed in honor in the dining-hall, was the special charge of 
the pious Maria; she decorated it with passionate love. In the 
beautiful month of June all the flowers in the garden were for Him, 
and a light burned before the Httle shrine continually. Irresistibly 
drawn toward her God, Maria one day, believing herself alone in 
the room, in an impetus of love which she could not restrain before 
a picture of the Sacred Humanity of Jesus, kissed with ardor His 
Sacred Feet and then His Divine Heart, saying: "With humiHty I 
go to the Feet of Jesus, and with love I go to His Sacred Heart." — 
The distinguished Directress of the Institute of the Sacred Heart 
said of her : "With each Daily Commuion the dear child made rapid 
progress in wisdom and virtue- Her daily program was : The sanc- 
tification of my soul and that of my neighbor; union of love with 
Jesus, labor and prayer." 

On the 29th of April while she was a prey to extreme desolation 
of heart. Our Lord said to her : "Know that in those painful mo- 
ments in which it seems as if the demon is about to tear thee from 
my Heart, thou art more closely united to Me by the strong bonds 
of love. Art thou not the happy prey of Love? How canst thou 
be afraid of the demon when the Almighty is with thee? I am the 
cuirass of thy soul; then fear not the blows destined for thee; a 



19 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



soldier fears not the snares of the enemy when he knows he is 
powerfully defended. And what I say to thee is not for thyself 
alone, but also for so many souls who are in the same state. I repeat 
it; I wish thee to make known to souls what I teach thee; confi- 
dence IS the key which opens the treasures of my mercy." 

On May 2, he stimulated her in regard to mortification : — "I would 
have thee do greater penances. With the consent of thy Spiritual 
Father thou shalt gird thy reins with a knotted cord which will pain 
the flesh without awakening the suspicions of those around. Hence 
try to be joyous always. I shall continue to try thee by interior 
and exterior pains. I wish thee to attain to f orgetfulness of self in- 
everything; and I promise thee the grace of equality of humor which 
is sol necessary to maintain thee in the practice of virtue." 

Some days afterward, the 13th, her Divine Spouse asked her 
to make a vow to love Him with her whole heart. Terrified at 
her weakness Maria Consolata hesitated; but she was quickly en- 
couraged by her dear Master, w^ho Himself dictated to her the fol- 
lowing formula: 

"I make the vow to love my God with all my heart ; and for love 
of Him I shall strive to love my neighbor as He has taught me." 

''Thou doest this already," the Adorable Master assured her, 
"but I wish to oblige thee to do it ever more and more perfectly." 
She begged Him humbly to make Himself known to her that she 
might love Him as much as He desired. "Yes, I will make Myself 
known to thee and thou shalt love Me," He answered. "Have an 
affection for recollection, silence and solitude; every beginning is 
difficult, especially when there is question of practicing virtue; but 
do not be afraid ; thou shalt become strong through My grace, pro- 
vided thou bury thy littleness in My Mercy." 

On the 2ist of the same month Jesus said to her: "I desire thou 
shouldst honor My Divine Heart particularly during the month 
consecrated to It: therefore I shall awaken thee at four instead of 
half past four in the morning, in order to converse with thee. I 
shall call thee twice in the night, and each time thou shalt arise, and 
kneehng kiss the ground. The first time thou shalt say five times 
"Jesus," as My Minister has taught thee ; the second time thou shalt 
say three times, "Jesus Crucified, crucify me with Thee-" Thou shalt 
wear the cord during the day, adding to it two more knots; and 
thou shalt wear it during the night to render thy sleep painful. Do 
not let suffering frighten thee; thou art capable of nothing; hence 

20 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



I use thee to accomplish My designs. I use the vilest and most 
miserable instruments that all may recognize the action of My 
grace." 

On May 30 He again addressed her : "It is useless to try to over- 
come the anguish which oppresses thee : it is I who permit it. Do 
not struggle any longer to be recollected and absorbed in Me; it 
will only increase thy pain. Thou art walking in obscurity, it is 
true; but thou art not alone, I am with thee; abandon everything 
to me then, like a poor blind person who trusts in the guide with 
perfect confidence. I speak to thee directly, and I make use also 
of my devout Minister ; together we shall foresee the obstacles thou 
mayst encounter, so that thou mayst be ever on the watch to avoid 
them. Follow faithfully our counsels and do not fear; that soul 
alone is lost who absolutely wills it in spite of the reiterated solicita- 
tions of My grace." 

The Divine Heart afterward gave her a second mission, with- 
out however releasing her from the first, the salvation of sin- 
ners; He enjoined her to pray for religious souls who live in a 
state of tepidity. "Thou shalt pray to Me thus," He said: — "O 
Jesus, who hast granted to these souls the signal grace of serving 
Thee in a more perfect state, do not permit them to abuse so 
great a treasure by passing their lives in tepidity and negligence; 
revive in their hearts the flame of Thy love, so that repairing the 
past and sanctifying better the future, they may enjoy Thee in 
Heaven for all eternity." After these tender words, He added: 
"I am preparing the work of My Mercy; I desire a new resurrection 
of Society but it will be a work of love. I shall make use of thee 
to communicate Myself to My creatures, and to make known to them 
My Will.'* He inspired her with new courage in regard to the vow 
she had made to love Him purely for Himself, and urged her to do 
always what she beheved to be most perfect in order to become more 
agreeable to Him. 

While Jesus took His delights in this soul, so pure, her interior 
martyrdom redoubled. Maria Consolata feared she was under il- 
lusion, and trembled at the bare thought of being unfaithful to her 
vows. Our Lord used her to enlighten the way of him who directed 
her, while she remained in thick darkness. Obedience was her 
pharos and her support; the love of Jesus heartened her and His 
sweet voice encouraged her. 

"When thou art suffering," He said, "whether interiorly or ex- 

21 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



teriorly, do not lose the merit of thy pain; suffer only for Me. 
The greater number of souls, often even pious souls, lose much merit 
by relating what they suffer to anyone who will hear them; and 
although they do not complain, they desire no less the sympathy of 
creatures. When My Divine Heart sends suffering It wills that 
the soul accept it with patience and resignation. Such persons be- 
lieve that their trials will be relieved by pouring them out to the 
creature; nature is satisfied, but grace is weakened, and courage 
fails them afterward to bear their sufferings through pure love. 
I am going to dictate to thee Myself the sentiments which should 
animate thee in the greatest trials- Thou shalt say to thy Spouse : — 
O Jesus, only Love of my heart, I wish to suffer what I suffer and 
all Thou wilt have me suffer, for Thy pure love, not because of 
the merits I may acquire, nor for the rewards Thou hast promised 
me, but only to please thee, to praise Thee, to bless Thee, as well in 
sorrow as in joy." 

On June 20, 1903, Maria Consolata, not seeing the realization of 
a promise she believed God had made her, was assailed anew by ter- 
rible fears. She believed herself a victim of the delusions of the devil 
and doubted that it was Jesus who spoke to her; she strove, there- 
fore, to repulse the interior "Voice". Obedience obliges her to write 
all that passes within her, and now she is tortured lest she should 
write only lies. If she writes, it is with fear and trembling; if she 
does not write, remorse takes possession of her soul. In this pain- 
ful state she would have recourse to her Spiritual Father, but he 
is absent. The enemy, taking advantage of her trouble, suggests 
that she should omit Holy Communion, and she at once discovers 
the ruse of the tempter. "I know that I shall receive in Holy Com- 
munion strength to resist the wiles of the demon ; therefore I will not 
yield and deprive myself of the Sacred Bread through motives 
which have no reality, but are unfounded fears. I earnestly entreat 
my God to deliver me from these illusions if I am truly their victim, 
Satan taking the appearance of an angel of light to penetrate my 
mind. The Lord, it is true, deigns to speak to me as heretofore, 
but His words leave only a momentary calm in my spirit, followed 
by terrible temptations. I believe the only remedy to keep peace 
in the midst of this tempest is to submit to all the orders of my Dir- 
ector; his persuasive and fatherly words will restore my tranquil- 
lity, if I follow his counsels with humihty; and I will do so, with 
the grace of my God, for cost what it will, I must conquer." 

22 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



While she was writing the last lines, her Beloved interrupted 
her, consoling her wath infinite tenderness: — ''Listen to Me, My 
spouse; it is because I love thee that I treat thee thus. The most 
precious gift I can make to My friends is that of the Cross. I 
send to the soul what costs it most, what it dreads most; this is the 
best means of making it advance. It is to comfort thee I speak thus ; 
and I assure thee that thou art far from displeasing Me when thou 
art in this painful state, since it is I who permit it. I know what is 
good for thee; let Me act. I am beginning to nourish thee in thy 
youth with the substantial bread of sorrow, and during thy whole 
life I shall satiate thee abundantly wdth this celestial manna." 

On June 24, our future Sister being still in the same state, Jesus 
said to her: — "Thou art in such aridity thou canst not see what 
passes within thee; but be tranquil, these difficulties will disappear; 
arm thy will ! And hast thou not thy God to sustain thee and make 
thee triumph? O how I love to see thee combat! Therefore I 
shall be on My guard against freeing thee from occasions. Do not 
be astonished that I speak to thee so familiarly ; I act thus with My 
children for in them I take My delights ; but the greater number 
know not how to receive and put in practice My words of eternal 
life. Do thou at least receive them and put them to profit for thy- 
self and others." 

He showed her anew on the following day the value of the Cross. 
"Listen to Me: I am going to ask a gift of thee- Wilt thou in 
exchange for the infinite love I bear thee give Me a special testi- 
mony of affection? I desire thou shouldst offer it to My Divine 
Heart to save sinners. By joining thy w^orks to prayer thou wilt 
obtain more easily what thou desirest so ardently — the salvation of 
souls. There is question therefore of making Me a generous sacri- 
fice of that portion of merit which still remains to thee after the 
donation thou hast made in favor of the souls in Purgatory by the 
heroic act of charity. Nothing will remain to thee of what thou 
shalt do or suffer : surrender all to Me that I may dispose of it at My 
Will in favor of the souls whose conversion thou dost seek. This 
generous offering will attract to thee the choicest benedictions of 
God and make thee participate in the benefits of Redemption, since 
thou dost sacrifice all that thou art, all that thou hast, and all that 
thou doest, for those poor souls who, thanks to thee, will obtain mercy 
and pardon from My Heart. Therefore must thou have a loving 
and constant generosity which recoils not before the greatest sacri- 



23 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



fices. Be holily avid not to let one pass without offering it to Me ; 
the more thou shalt vanquish thy repugnances the more special 
graces thou shalt receive. Let this promise encourage thee not to 
tremble in the face of trial ; accept it, bear it sweetly through love ; 
and in exchange thou shalt obtain from Me all thou dost hope for, 
all thou canst desire." 

Aridity was habitually the portion of Maria Consolata. We read 
in her notes of June 28, 1903 : — "What I am going to write does not 
come from me ; I am the first to recognize it. I write to please my 
Jesus and to assist those souls who may be in my present situation- 
When I am in aridity, I say to Jesus : My Divine Spouse, if Thou 
wiliest I should be in this state till my last sigh, Thy will is mine : 
take all — relations, goods, affections, health, honor, all. Provided 
Thou leave me my heart to love Thee, it is enough for me. I wish 
to know Thee better that I may love Thee more; I hope for this 
grace from Thy infinite goodness: I am certain of obtaining it, 
but I do not wish to hasten even by a moment the hour in which it 
will please Thee to grant it. If Thou shouldst tell me that by lov- 
ing Thee I should augment Thy glory, and by it I should diminish 
mine for all eternity, I would not only love Thee as much, but even 
more, if it were possible.'* 

On July 14, 1903, Our Lord said to her : — "Thou shalt make thy 
Purgatory in the flames of My pure love-" 

And five days later He traced out the program for her whole life. 
"Blessed is she whom God chooses to be the instrument of His mer- 
cies toward souls. But she ought not to render herself useless by 
her infidelities. On the contrary she ought to strive most earnestly 
to do everything possible to obtain new graces for herself and others. 
It is to thyself, O Maria, that these words are addressed. Thy mis- 
sion is to do all the good thou canst to the greatest possible num- 
ber of souls. A mission painful and dolorous, which will cost thee 
many sacrifices; but the consoling thought will be thine, that thou 
wilt thus increase the glory of thy God. I tell thee these things to 
encourage thee to suffer, because ere long thou must drink the Chal- 
ice I have prepared for thee. O my poor beloved ! through how many 
torments I shall make thee pass in order to refine and purify thee, 
that there may be nothing in thee displeasing to thy God ! Prepare 
thyself to suffer new pains and temptations, which, like frightful 
phantoms, will assail thy spirit. But I repeat, they will be simple 
phantoms, which for thy consolation the light of My Presence will 

24 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



dissipate in a moment. Nature will be crushed, but the spirit will 
live ; thou wilt acquire a new vigor, and from these trials, supported 
with heroic patience, there will result a desire to suffer which will 
leave thee no repose." Turning then toward Jesus His little spouse 
replied : "O Jesus, my greatest happiness will always be to do Thy 
Will, provided Thou deignest to help me with the succors of Thy 
grace." 

On July 21, 1903, she writes ingenuously: ''Here are four resolu- 
tions I intend to present to Jesus on my birthday. I shall then be 
nineteen years old : — How much time lost ! How many graces ren- 
dered useless ! But it shall be so no longer ; Maria is going to begin 
a new life: the Cross of Jesus will be her delight, and like a true 
lover, she will no longer avoid it. — i. I shall no longer seek myself. 
2. I shall abandon myself totally to the care of Divine Providence, 
and do blindly all that my Director shall order. 3. I shall no longer 
speak of myself deliberately, neither of what I do, nor of what I 
intend to do ; and if I am questioned, I will answer in such a man- 
ner ad not to fail in holy humility. 4- I shall have for my neigh- 
bor that charity which knows how to compassionate and encourage 
at the same time ; and as to what concerns myself, I shall consider 
contempt and disdain as a supreme good, esteeming myself too 
happy to have some mark of resemblance with Jesus." 

We have said that Our Lord spoke to her not only for herself, 
but also for others : He even revealed to her the beauty and merit 
of certain souls. In the lines which follow there is question of her 
Director. Jesus said to her on July 28: — "Your hearts are like 
waters from the same source which in the beginning take a separate 
way, but unite at length to form a larger stream, which is much 
more advantageous. They are like two stems of lilies a little dis- 
tant from each other; as they grow they intermingle their flowers 
and their immaculate whiteness and sweet perfume rejoice the 
Heart of God. You, like these Hlies, beloved souls of My holy 
Minister and my faithful servant, are so united to My Heart by 
Its loving embraces, that you are to receive the mission of making 
It known and loved more and more. The way is open to you but 
it is indeed thorny and sown with obstacles." 

We read on the 12th of August: — "Jesus compares my soul to a 
ball, which when thrown violently to the ground, rises much higher 
than its point of departure; so my soul humbled by aridity rises 
again, by the grace of God, to the practice of pure love. He con- 



25 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



stantly predicts to me new sufferings, and does not fear to frighten 
me, assuring me that Crosses are most precious caresses which He 
reserves for privileged-souls. He shows me the state of victim as 
a subHme state. At another time I heard from my Beloved a dolor- 
ous plaint. He revealed to me the sorrow of His Heart at being 
robbed of the love which is due to Him, while souls are making 
so bad a use of it everywhere. He compared Himself to a beggar 
who sees food thrown away and spoiled right before his eyes, food 
which would prevent him from dying of starvation." 

On August 22, she pours out her soul in these words : — O how I 
love to think of the love Jesus bears me ! And yet this sweet thought 
is a source of pain to me ; if I abandon myself to joy in knowing 
that miy good Master loves me with a special love, I deduce from it 
that I, am obliged to correspond to this special love, and I feel in- 
capable of doing so. I know, however, for He Himself has told me 
so, that He blends bitterness with all my joys so as to guard me 
from self-seeking in His divine consolations- Crushed under the 
weight of my misery and weakness, I supplicate Jesus to come to 
my assistance and give me a little fervor. To comfort me He an- 
swers that this state, instead of coming to an end, will be accentuated 
m.ore and more because I have not yet reached the summit of sorrow, 
and that as soon as I shall have arrived there I shall mount rapidly 
to Him. I suffer because I do not know how to suffer ; consequent- 
ly I am afraid of offending Jesus, which prevents me from going 
to Him with perfect confidence. Jesus wishes that I should die to 
all things; I understand this very well, but I rebel at His work of 
Mercy and hence my suffering is prolonged." 

Her Divine Master deigns again to comfort her : — ''Courage, My 
spouse, take heart; thy God is always near although thou dost not 
always see or hear Him. Sentiment, while giving certitude, dimin- 
ishes faith ; I take away sensible consolation from the soul that I 
wish to exercise perfectly in this virtue. There is question of believ- 
ing without seeing, of believing without understanding and without 
wishing to understand. Thus reason is subjected and the soul glori- 
fies God. Dost thou wish to give Him pleasure? Do not scru- 
tinize His designs in thy regard; let Him treat thee as He pleases. 
He can do in one minute, by a single act of His will a thing which 
would require many years of labor. I know thou dost love prayer 
much; but behevest thou that in praying as long a time as thou 
desirest, and as is thy custom, thou dost satisfy fully the demands 

26 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



of duty? I, who see much more clearly than thyself, perceive in 
thy heart a gnawing worm. Its work does not appear outwardly; 
but I discover hidden in its depths a secret complacency, a refined 
pride which conceals itself under the appearance of piety, and leads 
thee to adopt practices which serve very often only to nourish thy 
self-love. What does the Divine Spouse do then? He strikes, He 
cuts off without pity, without compassion, without Hstening to the 
laments of poor wounded nature: I take away everything that is 
spoiled and corrupted so that the evil may not become greater." 

On September 3, Jesus once again asked of this loving soul the 
gift of her whole being: — "I want thee to lend me thy mind, thy 
life, thy faculties, which are My gifts, that thou mayst become wholly 
the instrument of My Mercy. The desire of seeing My adorable 
Heart ever more known and loved ought to move thee to receive 
this mission with docility. Accept it, then, through the love thou 
hast for My Sacred Heart, and in order to fulfill it, enter into the 
Order of the Visitation." 

This is the first time that Our Lord showed clearly to His future 
spouse the Institute He had chosen for her. After this announce- 
ment of His Will, He continues to invite, to press and solicit her 
to yield to His desires- 'The Monastery will be the pulpit in which 
thou shalt make I\Ie known. Having no need of strength, I shall lean 
upon thy weakness. I use the ignorant to confound the strong." 

We read in her notes of October 23 : — "Jesus asked me this morn- 
ing if I loved Him. I answered that I wished to love Him- He 
asked me afterward if I was wilHng to do what He desired. On 
my response in the affirmative. He sent me to say to a soul as dis- 
couraged as myself : Have confidence, Jesus loves you. I confessed 
to Him my embarrassment, never having seen the person. He an- 
swered by pointing her out to me ; This is she. I experienced a mo- 
ment of hesitation as usual, but my sweet Master reassured me, add- 
ing that I ought to obey without fearing that the inspiration might 
come from the enemy, it being entirely opposed to his plot, for he 
was trying to cause the loss of this soul by distrust." 

Maria Consolata obeyed. Then the devil avenged himself by 
plunging her once more into her habitual fears — of self-illusion 
and deception of others. Her soul was enveloped in darkness ; and 
while she consoled and enlightened so many other souls, even that 
of her Guide, she herself remained languid and tormented by fright- 
ful phantoms. 

27 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



On November 8, 1903, she writes: — "My Jesus wishes that I 
should make the vow of humihty, which consists, he told me, in rec- 
ognizing that I am nothing without the aid of God, and in desiring 
to be unknown and despised. He told me to execute without delay 
or hesitation all that He had asked of me." And on December 28 : 
— *'I am confused but ravished with the cares my Beloved lavishes 
upon me. It is now more than a year since I began to write in 
obedience; and my Divine Master assures me that I shall never 
be discovered; there was danger of it several times, but His good- 
ness did not permit it. He deigns to warn me when I must stop 
writing; and at other times when I deem it prudent tO' interrupt my 
work, He says to me : Thou mayst continue !" 

We see in her notes of January i, 1904, that the dear child contin- 
ues in the same state of aridity :"I feel a violent disgust for all things ; 
I am displeased with everything. I can find no relief in God, be- 
cause I no longer feel His Presence, nor in creatures because they 
must not know my sufferings. I know not on what side to turn; 
but I conclude there is nothing to be done but to await with resig- 
nation the hour of deliverance. At times I ask myself anxiously 
if it is not indiscreet zeal on my part to write notes and bear mes- 
sages to persons whom I am so slightly acquainted with. However, 
I shall not oppose the designs of God over me; I consent willing- 
ly, in spite of my repugnance, to surrender myself into His Divine 
hands as a simple instrument- Let Him use me as He pleases ; I am 
His possession; let Him spare me in nothing and for nothing." 

And on the 21st: — "This evening I experienced such violent spir- 
itual pain that a special grace was necessary to enable me to endure 
it. I can explain neither the kind of pain nor the cause of it; I 
felt a great isolation of heart, and my will was grievously afflicted 
by nature ; but with the grace of God I did not yield, and I relapsed 
into my state of aridity. To prove my love for Our Lord I shall 
satisfy my nature in nothing; even in the most pressing necessities, 
though it should tremble and revolt, I will that Love should triumph. 
Live Jesus, who desires that I shoud die in Him and for Him!" 

On the 29th of the same month we read : — "Jesus has renewed to- 
day the promise He formerly made me of granting me great graces ; 
and what consoled me above all was that He said creatures would 
recognize in me the effects of fidelity to grace, and that by this 
means I shall gain to His Heart many faithful souls." 

She writes on February 3 : — "While preparing for my devotion of 

28 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



the Wednesdays in honor of St. Joseph, Jesus told me that I would 
do well to deprive myself of drink on that day ; not having permis- 
sion for it today, He invites me to perform two mortifications among 
those which cost me most." Some days afterward Maria Consolata 
heard these words : — "Act in such a way that wherever the body can 
find relief, it may meet, on the contrary, only constraint and suffer- 
ing; refuse it even the least pleasure." 

On March 9, 1904, she speaks of her happiness at the thought of 
being able ere long to realize her ardent desires for the religious 
life : — "Time is passing, and I see the happy day approaching when 
I shall bid farewell to the world and go to bury myself in the beloved 
sepulchre of the Heart of Jesus; there one lives to die and dies 
to live. I need a life of continual obedience; I feel that obedience 
alone can maintain peace of conscience." On the 26th Maria Con- 
solata experienced a desire to visit one of her cousins, a Religious 
of the Visitation of Turin : but Our Lord required this sacrifice of 
her, as he would despoil her of every satisfaction too eagerly 
sought. 

On the 3rd of July, Jesus awakened her as usual at four in the 
morning, and said to her: — ''Listen, My Joy, thou sleepest well on 
the Heart of thy Spouse ; do not give so much care to thy body ; ha- 
bituate thyself to a life of sacrifice and refuse energetically all that it 
demands. Thou must conquer or die ! If thou wilt practice mortifi- 
cation faithfully, thou wilt come to feel no longer the corporal neces- 
sities, which will be an excellent thing; for then thou canst remain 
in constant union with God, the Sovereign Good of thy soul." 

Nothing could be more touching than the goodness which the 
Divine Master displays toward her. Now He encourages her to 
continue writing, telling her that she shall not be surprised; again 
He counsels her not to begin her work, as she will be immediately 
interrupted ; He even goes so far as to tell her to take her walk with- 
out an umbrella under a dark and threatening sky, assuring her 
that it will not rain, etc., etc. 

On August 31, 1904, the Divine Lover comes to ask her love...„. 
Like a mendicant He stands at the door of the hearts of His crea- 
tures and knocks- He complains sadly and tenderly to our dear 
Sister of their coldness : — "Behold. I beg the love of My creatures, 
who refuse it to Me and squander it upon things which pass away. 
They do not even think of giving it to Me- li thou knewest, Maria, 
how painful it is to love so much and not to be loved! I do not 

29 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



grow weary, I am always seeking love and no one gives it to me; 
not only they will not love Me, but they hate Me. Dost thou know 
what hinders Me from striking sinners? It is the prayers of the just ; 
they disarm My divine Justice." And on the 1 5th of September : — 
"Thou canst not imagine, O my spouse, the pleasure I experience in 
remaining with My creatures ! I am always in search of hearts that 
love Me, and I find only a small number. I lavish upon them the 
plenitude of My graces ; I have so great a love for the souls who are 
faithful to Me and let Me do what I please with them, that I am 
as ready to gratify them as if it were a law to Me." 

The Adorable Master complains anew on October 17, 1904, to 
His little Benjamin : — "The wicked triumph ; few souls remain faith- 
ful; they abandon Me to seek for happiness where it is not to be 
found. O My spouse, can they be happy while violating a law so 
holy, so good and easy as Mine?" 

Her Divine Spouse often speaks to her of her rehgious vocation. 
He reiterates His desire that she should enter the Visitation, prom- 
ising her a more fatherly and loving assistance, greater graces, and 
communications more intimate when she shall be wholly His own : — 
"I invite thee to come to Me," He says, "because I wish thee to be 
all Mine; I am satisfied that thou shouldst go to the Visitation. 
Thou wilt soon be there and thou wilt be My consolation. My 
spouse, if thou knewest the desire I have of seeing thee all My 
own !" And two days afterward : — "My invitations and soHcitations 
are pressing, because I desire so ardently that thou shouldst go to 
the Visitation. While waiting, read attentively the book of the 
Rules, and when thou shalt have studied it profoundly, I will con- 
duct thee there." 

On September 30, our future Sister asked Jesus with childlike 
frankness: "How was it that yesterday, before leaving the Church 
through obedience, I felt so much anguish ?"-''It was a foretaste," He 
replied, "of what thou shalt suffer when thou shalt be wholly united 
with Me, filled with Me." Our dear Sister continued with en- 
chanting candor to impart to Him. her feehngs: "I am grieved," 
she says, *'at seeing that I derived such pleasure from a gift of 
grapes, and yet I do not experience so much when I receive My 
Jesus." He answered with infinite goodness :-"But this is nothing ; it 
is common to all creatures: through duty thou lovest Me above all 
things ; but thou dost experience more sensibility for natural things." 

Our Lord referred anew to the Monastery on October 12, 1904: 



30 



THE '/Little Secretary of Jesus' 



"Thou shalt go to the Visitation," He said, "i. Because it is My 
Will; 2. Because at the Visitation thou canst not only become 
holy, but thou canst attain to the degree of sublime perfection 
which I destine for thee; 3. For the spiritual good of others. 
Follow the Rule, but without fear, for it is wholly impregnated 
with love and mercy. Thinkest thou that when thou shalt be all 
Mine, My Heart will cease to be for thee an Asylum of Mercy, 
as it has been heretofore? O My spouse, My beloved, I will recom- 
pense bountifully thy sacrifices and renunciations." And on Oc- 
tober 23 : — "When thou shalt have tasted the life of the cloister thou 
wilt not desire to return to the world at any cost. There thou wilt 
find humiliation, recollection, and all that is needful for thee. I 
will have My profit when thou art in the Monastery, for thou shalt 
win souls to Me. I desire ardently that thou shouldst be all Mine; 
at present creatures still have rights over thee." 

On March 12, 1905, He said to her: — "Learn for thine own bene- 
fit and teach it to others, that to obtain solid virtue it must be sought 
in the Heart of Jesus- Whoever wishes to be saved has only to 
take refuge in this Blessed Ark whence he can look out upon the 
tempest without being shaken by its fury. O beloved spouse, dis- 
cover to all the place of refuge thou hast chosen for thy perpet- 
ual Abode; do Me this charity to teach it to other souls that they 
may come and find Me. I have immense treasures of grace for all : 
and whoever comes to Me shall be overwhelmed with them" 

He says on the 15th of the same month: — "Knowest thou the 
shortest way to arrive at Heaven? It is that of confidence in My 
merits and fidelity to grace." And on the 17th: — "My beloved, seek 
for Me Victims who are willing to immolate themselves for the 
glory of My Heart. My Heart is full of mercy, not only for thee, 
but for all." 

It is to be regretted that we cannot give more at length these 
writings, marked with divine delicacy and sweetness. They are 
torrents of infinite tenderness, springing from the Heart of our 
Spouse; they are full of encouragement, sweet and urgent at the 
same time ; of teachings clear and practical, phrased with admirable 
simplicity; they are words of consolation, but of a consolation at 
once strong and delicious. It is the supernatural, the divine, which 
attracts the soul to irresistible transports of confidence and love ! 

Some resolutions and reflections of Maria Consolata will impress 
upon us still more the delicate attention and minute detail to which 



31 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



her fidelity was carried. They were written during the course of a 
little retreat she made in the Autumn of 1905 : — "I will have only 
one single ambition," she declares, ''to belong to Jesus forever. 
I resolve to give Him every day new proofs of love. Thanks to 
God, it seems to me I have no extraordinary attachment to the 
things of the world. I love automobiles; but if I had to choose 
between the riches of those who possess automobiles and the poverty 
of Jesus Christ, I would prefer to be a beggar for His love. — How- 
ever I am taken up with many things, while I ought only to think 
of God. How many persons there are of whom I often think, and 
whom I love tenderly! Can I say therefore that I love my God? 
Is it not an act of propriety to dispose of a heart which no longer 
belongs to me? — I notice that my will always wants to prevail over 
that of others ; it seems to me that there is no good but that which I 
do. — It costs me to yield and I cannot resolve to do so easily. O 
this wonderful 7, how living it is ! — When I succeed in anything, I 
am eager to teach it to others, that they, too, may have the pleasure 
of succeeding. I must absolutely watch over my heart, since for 
the love of Jesus, I shall soon forsake creatures. When I am in the 
Monastery my heart must not be filled with the things I have left. — 
I must change my life and give up everything. The elastic ribbon 
with which I close my books, seems to me an object of luxury; 
I will dispense with it. — I take too much pleasure in the enjoyment 
of good health and I grow sad when I am fatigued. — I do not like 
to wear old shoes, my self-love is pained. — I often look into the 
mirror; this I can easily avoid- Yes, for the love of Jesus I shall 
mortify my senses, and do just the opposite of what self-love sug- 
gests. — I allow myself to pet a dog, but I shall do so no longer, for 
my heart belongs entirely to Jesus. — When I undertake any labor, 
I trust too much in myself ; and when it is finished, I am eager to 
show that I have succeeded in the affair; this also is pride. — Well, 
from today I shall manage things sO' that nothing I do shall be ad- 
mired or esteemed, and thus give a good lesson to my proud nature. 
I will suffer joyously since Jesus wills it; I will not seek calm and 
tranquillity, but let Jesus do around me whatever He pleases. I shall 
be faithful to the practice of virtue, even in the smallest things; 
for example, I shall be silent when I wish to speak, and speak when 
I would like to keep silence. May Jesus bless me, guide me, and 
enlighten me!" 

The Divine Master continues to entertain Himself familiarly 



32 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



with her: every day He speaks to her, exciting and encouraging 
her to enter the Monastery : — "To be a Visitandine," He said to her 
on January 6, 1906, "means to enjoy the special glory which the 
Order of the Visitation will have in Heaven for having propagated 
the devotion to My Sacred Heart. Although all in the Communities 
do not cooperate directly, yet all participate in the same glory, as 
members of the Order." 

O yes ! the Adorable Master is benignly tender and loving with 
His little spouse. But we must desist, for it is impossible to abridge 
the divine colloquies. It would rob them of their sweetness, their 
freshness, and their celestial fragrance. It is impossible also to 
follow in its minute details the wonderful work that Jesus operated 
in this faithful soul. 



33 



Ill 

IN THE HOLY ARK: POSTU- 
LANT, NOVICE, PROFESSED 

NUN 

Maria Consolata sighed ardently after the cloister. Entirely sur- 
rendered to her God and possessed by Him, she practiced a morti- 
fication austere and intense in order to destroy her nature. Being 
called to a profound interior life, she felt the need of a silent and hid- 
den Nest- Her parents yielded at last to her desires ; but it is easy to 
imagine how heart-rending was their sacrifice. They conducted her at 
first to the Monastery of Pozzo Strada; but not receiving a favor- 
able answer, they addressed the Sisters of Pignerol, where Maria 
Consolata, after having made a little retreat, was accepted in March, 
1906, and admitted to her trial. 

From the moment of her entrance into the Holy Ark, the dear 
dove was penetrated with the atmosphere one breathes there. Was 
not this just what she had sought? Nothing could suit her better 
than this cloistered life; to be so near her God, free to converse 
with Him, dehvered from the daily solicitudes of the household, 
what happiness ! But there also Jesus was awaiting her ; He so good, 
so tender, so condescending to her, was again preparing a bitter 
chalice- 

Maria, in the enthusiasm of her joy, opened her heart with the 
candor of a child to the Superior then in charge: she imparted to 
her some of the divine communications, her transports of love, 
and her vehement desire to attain a sublime degree of perfection. 
The venerable Mother, deeply impressed by such revelations, as- 
tonished to find in a soul so young such riches of grace, such excep- 
tional gifts, to hear her speak even of an extraordinary mission she 
had to fulfill, asked herself if in accepting this Postulant she was not 
acting contrary to the intentions of our Holy Founders, who rec- 
ommend nothing to us so much as the spirit of simplicity, the dis- 
tinctive mark of our Order. 

34 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



Now it happened that while the venerated Mother of Pignerol 
was still in a state of indecision, our young Postulant was taken with 
a slight indisposition. This was at once made a pretext to restore 
her to her family ; thus painful explanations were avoided ; and her 
relatives were overjoyed at the final determination. Maria obeyed 
without a word. But who could reveal her martyrdom? Her 
heart was crushed. She repressed silently her bitter tears. Was 
this blessed Cloister, the object of her sighs, to be forever closed 
against her? Yet had not Jesus told her a thousand times He 
wished her to be a Visitandine? The fear of illusion, of having 
deceived herself and others, returned to torture her ; and the enemy 
on his side tormented her incessantly, laying snares upon snares 
for her. 

Wholly abandoned to the Will of God, no complaint escaped her; 
she put her lips to the painful chalice and absorbed all its bitter- 
ness. Ever laborious and docile, she returned to her life of de- 
votedness in the fainily, her heart broken but her countenance calm 
and sweet. She tried to dissemble her sufferings so as not to af- 
flict her parents; in spite of her extraordinary self-control, tears 
often shone in her eyes, and fell silently; she knew how to eat the 
bread of sorrow with resignation, steeped in faith and confidence. 
One powerful thought sustained her and gave her courage: "Jesus 
will not abandon Me !" 

Of this time of sorrow we have not a word or writing: there 
are certain deep agonies that have no word ; there is a limit, which 
passed, all is veiled and hidden between the soul and God. 

Weeks and months glided away. Maria turned to the sweet St. 
Francis de Sales, begging him to put an end to her long suspense; 
would he, a fountain of compassion for all, not have pity on her 
who sighed after the happiness of being his daughter? 

In spite of her efforts to hide her anguish of soul, the poor 
child did not succeed. Her pale face and emaciated frame made 
known her great sorrow and her consuming desire of a blessing 
she could not obtain. Her parents perceived that their beloved 
daughter was failing daily, and they understood the cause- A 
great conflict was going on in their hearts; it was more violent in 
the heart of the venerable father, who declared that he would 
rather die than be separated from his dear treasure. But at last 
his religious sentiments triumphed over his tender natural affection, 
and he gave his consent for the second time. He imitated the 



35 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



faith of the patriarch Abraham, and sought himself the altar on 
which he was to immolate his child of predilection. 

For our happiness it was to our Monastery of Como he applied- 

Our Lord told her interiorly that the Visitation of Como was 
the hollow place in the wall, the nest of the dove, where He 
willed her to be. Now she was ignorant even of the existence of 
the Visitation in that city. Such were the ways of Providence over 
this soul, and the hidden and admirable designs by means of which 
Jesus introduced her into the "place of her repose." The Most 
Honored Mother Maria Louisa Sobrero, whom our dear Turin 
with incomparable kindness had lent us, was then Superior. She 
knew the Ferrero family and held them in high esteem. Having 
made inquiries at Pignerol as to the dismissal of Maria Consolata 
from that Monastery, and having been apprized that the only 
obstacle to her admission was the extraordinary way by which she 
seemed to be led, Mother Maria Louisa hastened to open her arms 
and her heart to the dear aspirant. 

In the meantime Maria had been counselled as her case, so uncom- 
mon, required; the lesson received at Pignerol was to warn her 
for the future- Of a nature simple, candid and open, she felt that 
prudential measure as a burden, but made the sacrifice; by her 
great obedience she obtained strength to bear in silence through 
long years the new and profoundly interior martyrdom which God, 
through the mouth of her Ecclesiastical Superiors, had imposed 
upon her. 

Maria Consolata arrived among us on December 30, 1907, ac- 
companied by her venerable father and her dear aunt ; she was then 
twenty- two years old. Matured, purified by suffering, enriched by 
the virtues she had so long practiced in the shadow of the Cross, 
she seemed already formed to the religious life. 

We admired her profound humility, her perfect obedience, her 
faithful fidelity, her habitual recollection. There was something 
noble and gracious in her words and actions that attracted all hearts : 
hence she was soon admitted to her trial. 

The venerated Mother Maria Louisa, who was also Mistress of 
Novices, discovering in our dear Postulant extraordinary gifts, 
quickly appreciated the value of this soul and the acquisition made 
by the Community. But to prevent pride from spoiling the divine 
work, she resolved to form her to strong and solid virtue, and to 
spare her neither corrections nor humiliations. Sister Maria cor- 



36 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



responded eagerly to her maternal cares, and we may say she was 
far more avid to receive trials and reprimands than her good Mis- 
tress was to furnish them. 

Our dear Sister carried fidelity to excess, we may say even to 
scrupulosity ; this often caused her to be perplexed and undecided, so 
desirous she was of doing what was most perfect. She had a spec- 
ial power of introspection, and scrutinized with great minuteness 
the least of her actions, her aim being to do all purely for God, — 
an imperfection calculated to constrain the mind and subject it to 
a painful and continual tension. Her prudent Mistress strenuous- 
ly combated this natural tendency, urging the young Sister to act 
contrary to it and thus acquire the Hberty of spirit so necessary in 
the spiritual life. Maria had a tenacious will and it cost her to yield 
and surrender her judgment. This was her greatest battle-field. But 
her silent struggles were crowned with success ; and Jesus contin- 
ued to replenish the soul of His beloved with His graces. 

The Community, edified at the virtues of the Postulant, seeing 
her so fervent and at the same time so humble, regarded her as a 
treasure. Nevertheless no one suspected that we had in our midst 
a new Ark of Alliance, guarding jealously the celestial manna- In 
approaching or conversing with her, we were penetrated, attracted 
by the supernatural which surrounded her ; she truly radiated Jesus- 
Her eyes were ordinarily lowered ; if she raised them toward Heaven 
or spoke of her Beloved, they appeared beautiful and luminous ; one 
could read in them the virginal purity of her soul and the divine 
love which devoured her. She always spoke sweetly, peacefully; 
and we learn from her precious writings that she never said a word 
without having consulted her Divine Master. We could not doubt 
that nature, entirely conquered, had yielded to grace. 

Our dear Sister was gifted with perfect equality of humor; noth- 
ing could trouble her. She remained calm and serene amid the great- 
est difficulties, which led to the belief that she was naturally of a 
cold and indifferent temperament; in reality, however, she had 
acquired this evenness of temper by her constant fidelity in seconding 
all the movements of grace; for she had a most sensitive, delicate 
and affectionate heart, but creatures could not satisfy it. Hence, 
plunged in continual recollection, despising all that could withdraw 
her from God, she saw only Him, tended only to Him, and listened 
only to Him. 

In the progress of our recital we shall have occasion to speak 



37 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



of her fidelity to the least desires of obedience. We may be per- 
mitted to cite here an incident related of her while yet a postulant. 
A present had been made to our Monastery of a turtle, which had 
chosen a little corner of our garden for its home. One day our 
Honored Mother not seeing the turtle take its usual walk in the sun, 
invited the Sisters who were present to go and look for it ; all obeyed 
but soon returned saying it could not be found. The young Postu- 
lant alone persisted in the hunt. "My Jesus," she said, "obedience 
works miracles; help me to do our Mother's will." Her fidelity was 
rewarded, and soon the dear Postulant came to us from the ex- 
tremity of the garden with the turtle. 

We shall pass rapidly over the time of her trial, having before 
us so vast a field; and content ourselves with saying that our dear 
Sister labored energetically to acquire solid virtues, casting the 
foundations sure and deep in order to build securely her spiritual 
edifice, destined to rise to so sublime a height. 

After eleven months of fervor as a Postulant, Sister Maria, to 
the general satisfaction, was admitted to the Habit. Her happiness 
was indescribable ; she could not find words to express her gratitude 
to her venerated Mother and Mistress. She prepared for the great 
act with angelic fervor-; and on November 5, 1908, we saw her 
radiant under her white veil. Msgr. Carughi, Canon and Vicar Gen- 
eral of our Diocese, performed the ceremony ; and our dear Novice 
received the name of Sister Benigna Consolata. Her own name of 
Consolata was left her because it harmonized so well with the meek- 
ness of her character; for the same reason that of Benigna was 
combined with it, and also because November 5 was the anniversary 
of the death of Sister Jeanne Benigne Gojos. Our Honored Mother 
Maria-Louisa in giving her this name, seemed to enter into the 
designs of God since there was to be more than one trait of resem- 
blance between these two privilegd souls- 

In his sermon on the occasion Msgr. Carughi developed these 
words of- St. Paul: Vos estis Templum Dei Vivi. He urged the 
happy Novice to form in herself a Holy Temple, a living Tabernacle 
for her God, following in this the example of our Holy Church, which 
converts a material edifice into the House of the Lord. 

During her Novitiate our dear Sister was ever more and more 
exact in the observances, faithful to her duty, preventing toward the 
Sisters, knowing how to renounce her own desires in order to give 
them pleasure, most prompt, above all, in humbling herself profound- 



38 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



ly, on every occasion. Consequently the Community admitted her to 
the Profession of the simple Vows at the end of her year. The 
ceremony was fixed for November 23, 1909. It was for our happy 
Sister the day she had so long desired and the most beautiful of 
her life, since it united her to her Jesus by indissoluble bonds. Her 
joy was indeed at its height. Msgr. Abbondio Ballerini, Director 
of the Seminary, then our Spiritual Father, presided over the cere- 
mony ; and, as on the day of the Clothing, the sermon was preached 
by Msgr. Carughi, who, inspired from on High, pointed out to 
our newly Professed Sister the way in which she should walk. He 
summarized his discourse in these three words; Faith, Love, Sacri- 
fice. 

We who have had the happiness of living with our angelic Sister, 
can affirm with truth that she fully realized the program traced out 
for her that blessed day. We find no note which might reveal to us 
the impressions of Sister Benigna Consolata on the day of her pro- 
fession. Perhaps the Sacred Spouse had pressed her to His Heart 
in silence with infinite tenderness ; again, perhaps she preferred to 
keep jealously the treasures of love He had lavished upon her, the 
better to say : Secretum meum mihi. 

Our Most Honored Mother Maria-Louisa Sobrero, in the begin- 
ning of her second triennial, 1910, relinquished her charge of Mis- 
tress of Novices, which she conferred on our dear Sister Josephine 
Antoinette Scazziga, at present (1919) our beloved Mother. 

The new Mistress discerned at once that our dear Sister was an 
elect soul, called to extraordinary sanctity. In the meantime, while 
admiring her rare virtues, she noticed that her spirit was not free, 
in consequence of unfounded fears which paralyzed the action of 
grace, and prevented her from advancing rapidly in the way of 
our holy vocation. She always appeared tranquil, calm and smiUng ; 
but the able Mistress perceived that she did not enjoy that perfect 
peace which is the portion of faithful souls- When Sister Benigna 
Consolata disclosed to her some of her dispositions (without how- 
ever unveiling her secret) her affectionate and prudent Mistress com- 
pared her soul to a little barque fastened to the bank, or to a bird 
which cannot fly because it is held by a thread, or again, to a poor 
little lamb caught in a thicket. Our dear Sister was then suffering 
a cruel martyrdom. She would have been glad to pour out her 
soul with that candor and simplicity which bring us happiness and 
repose, but this was not permitted by her Directors. We shall see 



39 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



later how it was given her to open her heart entirely to her Super- 
ior, and how this disclosure became a new source of graces in re- 
ward for the interior sufferings of which her long silence had been 
the cause. 

Meanwhile Jesus prepared a new Cross for His beloved. On 
February 26, 191 2, a telegram brought the news of the unexpected 
death of Signora Ferrero. She had just written to her dear daugh- 
ter, terminating her letter with the words: "I leave you in the 
Heart of Jesus." Our Most Honored Mother communicated the 
sad news as gently as possible to our dear Sister. "When she re- 
turned to the wardrobe," says the Sister who was her aid, ''her 
face was flooded with tears; she tried to write to her family, but 
she could not succeed, her heart was so crushed with grief. Sud- 
denly, taking her crucifix, she kissed it, pressed it to her heart, and 
watered it with her tears. Then, consoled and fortified, she set to 
work to write holy and affectionate lines, full of comfort, tO' her af- 
flicted family." 

"O how can anyone say that the Monastery is the tomb of the 
affections! " she said afterward, "li the Lord, when there is 
question of corresponding to His call, gives us strength to break 
the ties He Himself has created, the religious life not only does 
not require us to forget those whom we love, but rather increases 
supernaturally our affection; it ennobles and divinises it." The 
letters which she wrote to her relatives were overflowing with 
religious tenderness; she forgot no one; she had cordial expres- 
sions of sympathy for each, even for the domestics, to whom she 
sent kind messages with little souvenirs and pictures. 

Sister Benigna Consolata, being gifted with a solid judgment, a 
healthy mind, and a kind heart, was extremely useful to our Com- 
munity. She had a special aptitude for mathematics; and several 
books in the Monastery contain numerous pages of her beautiful 
writings. 

Thanks to some lessons received from her brother, who was an 
engineer, our dear Sister succeeded in placing several electric wires 
in the Monastery, taking upon herself also to make the necessary 
reparations. She had charge of the gas fixtures: one evening the 
gas refused to give light in the Assembly Room ; after having tried 
by all possible means to light it, Sister Benigna Consolata took. the 
fixture apart, and having unscrewed the little tube, she saw that a 
spider web hindered the free passage of the gas. Our beloved Sister, 



40 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



who drew a supernatural lesson from everything, suddenly exclaim- 
ed ; "O what a lesson this spider gives us ! A little nothing is suf- 
ficient to arrest the operations of grace in our souls." 

Her perfect fidelity in corresponding to the least inspirations of 
grace revealed to her by experience that nothing can more surely 
attract Jesus and hold Him in the soul than this faithful fidelity at 
every instant. One day — it was during the morning recreation — 
the Community was at work in a little grove of nut-trees, and the 
sun, striking through the branches, incommoded our Sisters. "The 
branches and leaves do not suffice to shelter us from these burning 
rays," said our Honored Mother. "We ought to have a tent here." All 
had understood; but our fervent Sister Benigna Consolata alone 
took her work and disappeared to seek some means of satisfying the 
maternal desire. After a moment of absence she returned bearing, 
for want of something better, some yards of linen crash which she 
stretched among the branches. The expedient met with imperfect 
success, but our Sister had obeyed. Another time — it was a winter 
evening during recreation — Sister Benigna Consolata approaching 
our Mother said to her: "My Mother, if Your Charity will permit, 
I will go and close the windows of the room where we extend the 
linen ; they are still open." *'But how do you know they are still 
open?" "My Mother," our dear Sister answered humbly, "since 
Your Charity told us in the summer that it would be prudent to 
notice before night if those windows were closed, I have gone there 
every evening." (It is to be noted that these windows overlooked a 
little poultry-yard, and could not be seen except from the room 
itself.) Our venerated Mother was as consoled as edified by this 
perfect fidelity in the beginning of a religious life. 

It was with great joy and feelings of profound gratitude toward 
God that our Honored Mother presented the little Benjamin of 
Jesus at the altar on the day of her Solemn Profession. It took 
place on November 12, 191 2. We shall, not speak of the happiness 
of the dear Novice: only those souls called to taste these ineffable 
delights are capable of understanding their sweetness. 

The second triennial of our beloved Mother Maria Louisa 
Sobrero being terminated, the Lord placed us, at the Ascension of 
191 3, under the blessed government of our incomparable Mother 
Josephine Antoinette Scazziga. Shortly after, our venerated Sister 
Deposee was recalled by our Monastery of Turin, where she was 
elected Superior. We shall not attempt to paint the mournful 



41 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



scene of separation: we have already spoken of it in our little 
Circular. Sister Benigna Consolata was deeply affected at her de- 
parture, for very special bonds united her to our venerated Mother ; 
and many of the Sisters looked upon her with admiration controlling 
her emotions so generously that she did not shed a tear nor yield to 
any natural weakness, as often happens with tender and affectionate 
hearts such as hers, but less mortified. Our fervent Sister, being 
at this time Second Procuratrix, helped courageously at the packing 
and other preparations for departure ; the pallor of her face alone be- 
trayed the violence of her efforts at self-command. 

When God creates great souls He prepares for their guidance per- 
sons fitted to direct them in the way He Himself has already traced 
out. The Divine Master was the first Director of His Benjamin. 
"It is I who am thy Director," He said to her one day. And another 
time : 'Tt is I who teach thee humility : it is I, too, who enable thee 
to discover the snares of the enemy." But desiring to use human 
means to accomplish His works, the Lord deigned to surround our 
dear Sister from the cradle to the tomb with holy and enlightened 
souls. She speaks of her first Director in the following terms: — 
"Among so many graces with which I have been favored, I must 
count that of having had an enlightened Spiritual Father, who hav- 
ing taken me under his direction when I was about twelve years 
old, never ceased until my entrance in'o religion, to counsel me, 
to enlighten my mind and fortify my heart. It is to him, after 
God, that I owe the happiness of being a Visitandine. While I was 
still enjoying our sweet family life at home, he placed in my hands 
the lives of our dear Sisters Ann Madeleine Remusat, (the I\Iar- 
guerite Marie of Marseilles), and Jeanne Benigne Gojos, (a saintly 
Sister of Turin favored with extraordinary graces), as well as other 
spiritual books fitted to set aglow in my heart the sacred fire which 
Jesus had enkindled there. The reading of these lives cast more deep- 
ly the roots of my vocation." 

We think it opportune here to quote two letters from her Director, 
the Canon Boccardo. The first dated July 6, 1910, was addressed 
to her some months after her Profession of the simple Vows : — 

My dear Daughter in the Heart of Jesus. 

You have been surprised at my long silence and justly so. 
But what would you? Among other reasons, my first is that treat- 

42 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



ing of the secrets of your conscience, I could not forward a letter 
without being absolutely certain that my writing should not pass 
through the hands of another. You can very well confer with the 
Father of your soul, since he alone is capable of understanding fully 
your state. 

For several days something that I read in the life of the Ven- 
erable John Vianny ^^^ has been running through my mind, and I think 
it will be excellent for you. The Saint possessed the secret of con- 
centrating himself upon the present action which he was doing, 
without adverting to the action he had just finished or to that which 
he was to do afterwards. It is the theory and practice of your (and 
also my) St Francis de Sales; "Let your mind pass sweetly," he 
said, "from one action to another, without eagerness or disquiet- 
ude." 

Does Sister Benigna act thus? It is a deceit of the evil one that 
makes us act otherwise; to be disquieted lest the preceding action, 
whatever it be, has been badly performed, argues a motive of fear. 
And although it is a deceit yet it will prevent actions still before us 
from being taken in hand. Thus while you are thinking of the past 
you spoil the present ; and you spoil it also by foreseeing the sub- 
sequent one, which for the moment is an intruder. Leave the past 
to the mercy of God — little by little it passes — ^^and abandon the fu- 
ture to His Paternal Providence. We have at our disposal only the 
present. Set aside forever all these minute investigations of what- 
ever kind Delicacy of conscience leads to a more perfect love 

of your Spouse, but scrupulosity is a disease. Now, delicacy is 
not afflicted, not even at the least things, it being always understood 
that in this life whatever care we take, our works will always bear 
the mark of the manufactory, that is, of imperfection. But leave to 
Jesus Himself the grateful office of being the repairer of our defects, 
as He told the Blessed Alacoque, (^> and no longer meddle with them 
If you do otherwise, without your perceiving it, you will be lost 
in continual self-scrutiny and self-satisfaction, which will weaken 
your mind and hinder the mysterious and loving operations of Jesus 
in your soul. I bless you with all my heart. 



I.— The Cure of Ars. born at Lyons, France, May 8, 1786, died at Ars, 
August 4, 1859. Proclaimed Blessed by Pius X in i9o5. 

2— Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, the Apostle of the Sacred Heart, 
1647-1690, canonized by Benedict XV, May 13, 1920. 

43 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



The second letter is dated August 21, 191 2, some months pre- 
vious to her Solemn Profession : — 

My dear Daughter in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 

Your simplicity not only does not astonish me but it pleases me 
greatly. I am not surprised to learn that you are in the Monastery 
as a statue in its niche. I knew very well that the Visitation was 
made for you and you for it ; but to hear you say so increases my 
happiness ; with you and for you I bless our Jesus. I know nothing 
better to say to you than these words of Ddivid '.-Specie tua et pul- 
chritudine tim, intende, prospere, prcxede, et regna."^^^ Advance in the 
beautiful way of love if you wish to attain the end of your voca- 
tion : and hence you must forsake yourself in order to please Him who 
despoiled Himself of His infinite Majesty for love of us, real noth- 
ings. Do not fear to be wanting in respect to Him when you act fa- 
miliarly with Him : it makes Him so happy ! O yes, be content to be 
the little grain of sand carried away by the dust of the road. As 
to the rules I gave you on the part of Jesus, put them in practice 
constantly; I am responsible for them. You have always been 
mother of fear; you are so still ; I read it between your lines. Re- 
member that if the fear of God is necessary, it is nevertheless only 
the beginning of wisdom; ^^^ it is not the salt we put into the soup 
which nourishes us, but the soup itself. Live in love and con- 
fidence with Jesus ; this is much better. Perfect charity casteth out 
fear. (3) 

Msgr. Alfonso Archi, Bishop of Como, was the principal Di- 
rector of this chosen soul after her entrance among us. Sister 
Benigna Consolata held his Lordship in profound respect and gave 
him her entire confidence. On his side our saintly Prelate regarded 
the young religious, so modest and humble, with the highest esteem 
and consideration- During her last illness he gave her every mark 
of his fatherly devotedness ; and he deigns to continue it by favor- 
ing the diffusion of her writings. We shall cite one of the letters 
his Lordship addressed to her from time to time to tranquillize 
and encourage her: — 



I.— Ps. XLIV. 5. 2.— Ecclus. I. 16. 3.— I John, IV. 18. 

44 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



Reverend Sister Benigna and dear Daughter in Jesus Christ :- 

1. / speak the truth in Jesus Christ, I lie not, my conscience 
hearing me witness in the Holy Ghost. (St. Paul to the Romans, 
IX, i) Unhappy I if I lie! 

This then is the pure truth which ought to tranquillize you ful- 
ly; the Christian soul and still more the religious soul, as far as 
lies in her power, copies the Divine Exemplar that she may be- 
come one thing with Him. He has paid for our sins, and the reli- 
gious soul ought to unite with Him in expiation for herself and 
others, purgationem peccatonim faciens. Sister Benigna has done 
this and continues to do so. Now the said Sister Benigna sits in 
an elevated place at the right hand of the divine complacencies (St. 
Paul to the Hebrews, i). O this ought to humiliate you profoundly! 
But if our Lord is glorified by humility, He is also glorified by the 
truth; hence. I repeat to you, the divine pardon for your sins is 
certain and assured. 

2. And to excite you to love, cast your eyes on the Adorable Face 
of Jesus ; on that divine brow which is the brightness, the splendor 
of Heaven, and which for the sins of the world, has veiled its 
glory, — et tenebrae factae sunt — on those Eyes which are the de- 
light of Paradise, and are now filled with tears and blood; on that 
adorable Mouth, become mute, that Mouth which with a single 
fiat created the world out of nothing; on that Countenance, resplen- 
dent with beauty, now pale, livid, and disfigured. 

3. To correspond with love to the graces received from Love, 
repeat with fervor the inflamed words of St. Paul : — Who then 
shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or dis- 
tresSt or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or persecution, or the 
sword? But in all these things we overcome because of him that 
hath loved us. ...For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor An- 
gels* nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things 
to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature 
shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ 
Jesus Our Lord.'' (Romans, ch. viii.) Therefore, / am crucified 
to the ivorld and the world is crucified to me. (Galatians, ch. vi.) 
"I live no longer, but Christ liveth in me. ...My love makes me live 
for Him who so loved me as to deliver Himself for me. (Gal. ch. 
II.) And I bless you! 

Como, April 26. 191 6. Alfonso, Bishop. 

45 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



Our venerated Spiritual Father, Msgr. Catelli, also directed our 
Sister with prudence and wisdom, qualities highly appreciated by 
the souls who have the happiness to be under his direction. 

Lastly, the Canon Piccinelli, Confessor of the Community, was 
"the visible angel" who sustained and guided her more intimately 
during her religious life with paternal devotedness. We will not 
pause here to eulogize this holy priest, for whatever we might say 
would fall far below the reality: we will only observe that Our 
Lord deigned to show Sister Benigna Consolata how dear he was 
to His Heart. Several times while he was celebrating Holy Mass 
or giving Benediction, she saw the Divine Infant Jesus clinging to 
his neck and bestowing upon him a thousand caresses. Our dear 
Sister learned from her good Master that he had attracted these 
extraordinary favors by his profound humility. We will not say 
more, fearing to wound the modesty of our venerated Confessor; 
however, we must add that he has justly acquired the esteem and 
gratitude of our Community. 

Our Most Honored Mother perceived at once that if she would 
fully cooperate with the divine designs over the soul of our dear 
Sister, she must guard her with maternal vigilance. Humility must 
be rooted more and more in her soul; therefore she must be sur- 
rounded with humiliation as a protecting hedge. Our Mother was 
naturally sweet and mild and not led to make corrections; she con- 
fessed to us that during the first months of her Superiority, she had 
prayed Our Lord to give her strength to reprove in public as well 
as in private, as our holy Rule prescribes. Her Charity said simply 
to several of us that it caused her real suffering to give a reprimand ; 
but when there was question of Sister Benigna Consolata, He gave 
her a special grace, for she humbled her severely and fearlessly- 

On one occasion, our dear Sister being then assistant to the Nov- 
itiate, she gave a little commission to the novices without telling 
the Mistress beforehand- The thing was so trifling that had there 
been question of another no notice would have been taken of it; 
but our Honored Mother, who let nothing pass in her virtuous 
daughter, had her advertised in the refectory. In presence of the 
Community she reproved her severely, telling her that she ought not 
to pretend to become Mistress of Novices and Superior, that her 
place was the last and she ought to remain hidden, dispensing her- 
self from commanding the novices as if she were their Mistress, 
etc. Our venerated Mother went so far as to repeat to her several 



46 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



times in Chapter the same words, so hard to self-love. 

Our beloved Sister who wished to do all things perfectly, applied 
herself with earnestness to her labors, but worked slowly. She was 
often reproached with this, occasion being taken to mortify her. 
She received the correction on her knees and humbled herself sin- 
cerely. Her interior conflict was revealed by the blush which cov- 
ered her face for an instant; but it passed and our dear Sister re- 
sumed her calm and serene air. 

She received with no less humility the abjection which came upon 
her at times in consequence of her long spiritual conferences. When 
these were prolonged beyond the dinner of the second table ^^^ our 
Sisters in charge of the Refectory and Dispensary had to lose the 
recreation in order to attend upon the poor late-comer, who would 
have preferred to eat dry bread rather than impose the least sacrifice 
upon others ; but above all things she would be faithful to the Rule, and 
silencing her own sentiments to immolate them to duty, she took her 
repast gravely, as is prescribed. When she arrived in the Community 
room, in spite of her profoundly humbled air, we teased her immod- 
erately. Our Mother herself, before she had become aware of the 
divine communications, used to say a few words in praise of the 
common life, which, setting aside all singularity, does not allow one to 
be too much occupied with self. Our humble Sister bent her head over 
her work not saying a word ; if questioned, she answered with her or- 
dinary sweetness, not betraying her inward struggle. Later, she 
spoke of the powerful self-control that was necessary over her 
desire to hasten from the Confessional and take her dinner quickly, 
in order to be sooner at the recreation. "No, I ought to act only 
for God," she said, "without considering what creatures will say or 
think; besides a little shame will be very good for me, who were 
it not for the divine mercy, would be precipitated into the most pro- 
found depths of hell. Cost what it will, then, I shall not hurry; 
no, all for Jesus and nothing for self." 

We have already cited examples of her fidelity to obedience; 
here is another related by a Sister of the Novitiate. "One day," 
she tells us, "having gone with my Sister Benigna Consolata 
to the garden to gather the dry leaves, I observed that since 
there were so few, it would be a loss of time to carry them to the 
place assigned ; but she answered with her ordinary sweetness : — My 



(i). About II A.M.: the Sisters dine at lo. 

4; 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



Sister, our Mother desires we should carry them there ; we ought to 
obey although we had to pick up only a single leaf. I was greatly edi- 
fied," adds the Sister, "and I saw that until then I had not understood 
obedience/' We may remark that apart from the occupations of 
her employment, our dear Sister having much to write, economized 
her time as much as possible ; this was for her a good act of mor- 
tification and self-denial. 

To renounce oneself in this manner from time to time is good; 
but to let pass no occasion of self-sacrifice — this is the martyrdom 
of the will, a martyrdom no less meritorious in the eyes of God 
than that of blood. If the Divine Spouse was ravished by a single 
hair of the Spouse of the Canticles, with what love He must have 
accepted the continual immolations of His chosen soul! 

In 191 3, Sister Benigna Consolata was appointed Refectorian. 
Of a delicate constitution and subject to chills, she soon had an 
attack of rheumatism so acute and obstinate that several months 
were required to cure it, in spite of drastic remedies and the affec- 
tionate cares which were lavished upon her. Sweet and patient, 
our dear Sister was happy to embrace the Cross of her Jesus, happy 
in having a new occasion to prove to Him her love. 

Notwithstanding her severe pains, always faithful to duty, she 
followed regularly the common life; but we divined her sufferings 
from the sudden contractions of her countenance ; the crisis passed, 
she at once became calm and smiling, leaving us edified at her pa- 
tience. 

She was put in charge of the linen wardrobe some time after- 
ward, and devoted herself with all her heart to her new employment ; 
but there again her union with God rendered activity difficult. Re- 
primands were the resuh, which she received sweetly, accusing her- 
self even more and saying she deserved still greater reprehensions. 



48 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



IV 



HER HUMILITY, OBEDIENCE, 



MORTIFICATION, CHARITY 



We come to the close of the year 191 4. Sister Benigna Consolata 
not having obtained permission of the Ecclesiastical Superiors, 
had not yet revealed the divine secret to her who represents Jesus 
to us here below. But we will let our Honored Mother speak: — 
**0 what a martyrdom our dear Sister had to suffer! She who pos- 
sessed so fully the spirit of our Institute, and whose interior attrac- 
tion was to tell all, to confide all to her Mother ! But she could not 
do so without contravening obedience. Our venerated Ecclesiastical 
Superiors had imposed upon her a rigorous silence while they were 
examining her words and writings that they might be assured of 
the truth of the divine communications. WJien the Lord chose us 
for Mother of this little Community, He gave us at the same time 
a maternal tenderness for every one of the Sisters, and an ardent 
desire to make them advance in the perfection of divine love. 
Among the most fervent, Sister Benigna Consolata distinguished 
herself by her rapid progress in virtue ; but we could not account 
for the doubts, the fears and uncertainties that tortured her soul; 
the dear child was for us an enigma. 

"At last the day and hour came, and she was permitted to open 
the door of her mystic sanctuary; from that moment she entered 
into the way of perfect liberty of spirit, and torrents of peace 
and joy overflowed her soul, so that she could say with David — 
/ have run in the zvay of Thy commandments because Thou hast 
dilated my heart- — We should never end if we were to attempt 
to sound the abyss of our dear Sister's humility- The remem- 
brance of little faults, declared and detested a thousand times, 
kept her in a habitual state of compunction; she put herself below 
all the Sisters, esteeming them far better and more virtuous. One 
day she said with tears in her eyes: — 'My Mother, when I see 

49 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



our Sisters so good, so virtuous, pure as angels, I look upon my- 
self as an intruder. Do you know to what I compare myself? To 
that corner of the garden allotted to the sweepings of the house; 
a few bushes. and even flowers hide them from the passers-by; as 
for myself, she added with enchanting simplicity, *God has gifted 
me with a modest, grave and recollected exterior, to hide the de- 
fects of my soul. O if our Sisters knew me as I am !' 

"Her humility, so sincere, was the more admirable since our Lord 
deigned to give her the most tender names : My Benigna, My Lily, 
My Dove, My Joy, My Benjamin, etc. The more He exalted her, 
the more she abased herself and plunged into the depth of her 
nothingness ; the more He manifested her angelic virtue, the more 
avid she was of mortifications, humiliations, reiterated public ad- 
vertisements, in order, she said, to ruin her self-love. She contin- 
ually deplored in the bitterness of a contrite and humbled heart, 
what she called the disorders of her life, finding inexpressible sweet- 
ness in discovering her least natural movements, her evil inclina- 
tions, all those miseries, in a word, which are the sad heritage of 
our first parents. In her writings she speaks very often, through 
obedience, of her interior state; but more frequently still she as- 
sured us that she would have preferred to print her general con- 
fession than to publish the favors of which she was the object. 

"Her contempt of self showed itself on every occasion. H ad- 
vertisements were given in Community, Sister Benigna Consolata 
was promptly on her knees declaring her fault. If there was ques- 
tion of some infraction of the Rule, Sister Benigna Consolata ac- 
cused herself in order to receive correction. Often she was inno- 
cent; we then reprehended her for the abuse she made of our holy 
practices, to make herself singular, we said. She would blush, 
being extremely sensitive to that kind of remark ; but her ardent 
desire to resemble her Jesus led her to humiliate herself still more. 
And we profited adroitly," concludes our Honored Mother, "of 
the least occasion to try her virtue and maintain her in those ex- 
cellent dispositions.'' 

The Very Reverend Antonio Piccinelli, her Confessor, writes :- 

"Docile to the divine instructions, Sister Benigna Consolata con- 
formed in everything, as to the exterior, to the common life. But 
in her interior Hfe all was extraordinary. Her humility was alarmed 
at this, and she entreated our Lord to diminish His favors in her 
regard. He then promised to withdraw them all rather than suffer 



50 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



a single flaw in that virtue so dear to His Heart. He assured her 
that He would hide them from the knowledge of others, allowing 
only her imperfections to appear; a very special favor among all 
the others." 

Our dear Sister had a remarkable talent for painting- Among 
other beautiful works due to her pen and brush, we will mention a 
little Standard, representing St. Francis of Assisi sigmatized and in 
prayer, which she executed for the parish of Sottocornola. She 
wrote very well in round and in Gothic hand ; knowing her kind 
heart and her sweet spirit of condescension, we often had recourse 
to her. When she was overburdened and could not gratify us im- 
mediately, she humbled herself, begging us to excuse her; and af- 
terward hastened to comply with our desires. When, the little task 
was finished, she would thank us for the pleasure we had given 
her in requesting the little service. 

It was during the month which preceded the Superior's Feast 
that her precious assistance was most eagerly solicited. Her Char- 
ity had not a mioment of leisure; and if she happened to be guilty 
of any forgetfulness, our Honored Mother spared neither correction 
nor advertisement, asking her what she did with her time. Sister 
Benigna Consolata would cast herself on her knees, accusing her- 
self of slowness aij^dissipation ; but for all that she did not cease 
to continue her good offices for us. However, with her habitual 
candor, she said sometimes to our Mother: "When I am so busy, 
and our Sisters come to ask a service of me, I am tempted to im- 
patience, and would be glad to fly away from them: — but grace! 
O grace!" Yes, it was truly her fidelity to grace that most fre- 
quently brought upon her corrections, which she regarded as the 
most precious caresses of her Divine Spouse. 

*'My Benigna," He had said to her, "when a soul receives hu- 
miliations well, I give her a new mark of resemblance with Me. 
In telling thy faults, always choose those that humble thee the most; 
be a good treasurer for Heaven. To graft a plant the bark must 
be stripped off; this thou must do by mortification, in order that 
I, who am thy graft, may take life in thee." 

Our Sister had not only a real contempt for herself, but she de- 
sired that everyone else should despise her ; hence in telling her faults 
she used expressions that deeply impressed and edified us. 

"My Benigna," Jesus said again to her, "the purity of love con- 
sists in the perfection of sacrifice; and there is no sacrifice which 



51 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



pleases me so much as that of one's honor and reputation. When a 
soul has attained to the love of contempt in order that God may be 
glorified in her, I look upon her with so much love that if she could 
see Me she would die of joy. But they fear contempt as they would 
fear a monster. Why is it that so many souls do not arrive at the 
summit of perfection? Because they are afraid of contempt. My 
Benigna, I have given thee a thirst for contempt, but I will increase 
it still more." 

We shall tell ere long what a chalice of humiliation our dear 
Sister was destined to drink ; and we shall see how great and strong 
was the love of this true spouse for her Beloved. 

The last year of her life, having been appointed Assistant to the 
Novitiate, she asked and obtained the favor of telHng her faults 
and performing all the accustomed practices like a little Novice- 
She was for us a great example of encouragement in receiving cor- 
rection well. Her Divine Master had taught her on this subject : — 
**An advertisement well received may, during the time it lasts cause a 
soul to attain a union with Me which, perhaps, she could only have 
attained after two or three years of ordinary life." Our dear 
Sister had appreciated the value of this teaching; human respect 
never influenced her; she obeyed the inspiration of grace and 
thought of nothing else. While she held the office of Assistant, she 
one day did the penance in the Refectory of asking each of the 
Sisters to name her imperfections. One of our Sisters told her very 
simply that she abused the liberty granted to the Novices of telling 
their faults, and made others lose their time; that she ought to be 
more discreet, thinking a little of her neighbor and not of herself 
alone. The humble delinquent blushed ; for some time after she tried 
to avail herself of the recommendation, but urged by the pressing 
solicitations of Jesus, who said repeatedly: — "Benigna, the more a 
soul humbles herself, the more she approaches to Me," she sur- 
rendered herself anew to the requirements of love. As she feared 
to fail in cordiality toward the Sister who had so charitably admon- 
ished her. Our Lord encouraged her saying that the time employed in 
performing an act of humiliation is not time lost, that He counts it 
not only for the soul herself, but also for those who practice the 
virtue of patience. 

While we lived thus in fraternal union with our beloved Sister, her 
incomparable Master loaded her with marks of His divine tender- 
ness, and continued His instructions. — "My Jesus," she asked Him 



52 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



one day in an outburst of gratitude, "one would say that Thou 
canst not live without me. What is it that attracts Thee to my 
soul? Then hast Thou not the Angels? Dost Thou not find Thy 
happiness in Thyself?" — "My Benigna," He answered, "it is true, 
all this is true; but it is also true that I have a human Heart, and 

that I love Men I have told thee this already, but I tell thee 

again that thou mayst write it, my little Secretary of Love; then I 
will cause it to be read, that souls may believe in My excessive 
love; men are my brothers." 

When our Most Honored Mother was fully informed of the signal 
favors Our Lord showered upon the dear Sister, Her Charity 
gave her a half-hour every day to write the divine instructions. 
Jesus was evidently satisfied, for we read in her notes of that time : 
'*My Benigna, one of the means of passing unnoticed is the com- 
mon life. One half-hour a day is sufficient for writing, since thou 
shouldst aid the Community by thy labor. I enjoy seeing thee at 
work in thy office, because thou art poor." 

We may be permitted to cite here a charming incident which 
displays on one side the trusting simplicity of the young religious, 
and on the other the ineffable divine condescension. Here are 
her own words : "One day while I was aid in the linen wardrobe, I 
said to my Beloved: Listen, my Jesus, if you wish that I should 
write, it is your affair, you must arrange it. We have a great wash- 
ing to extend : then tell the sun to shine so that it may dry our linen ; 
if not, we shall have to work several days, and it is you who will 
lose. — Jesus in His goodness heard my prayer; the weather was 
perfect- However, I was not wholly satisfied; and I remarked to 
one of our Sisters that the favor Jesus had just granted would be 
still more manifest if it should rain the next day- As soon as 
we had taken in the washing all dried, a pouring rain came down. 
I was greatly embarrassed, but radiant with joy at proving once 
more that by confidence, we can obtain everything we wish from Our 
Lord." In a moment she added humbly : "The enemy tried to tempt 
me to pride by making me out a saint : I complained to Jesus, who 
told me to answer him, — With the aid of my God I will be one, be- 
cause of a sinner He can make a great saint." 

We have already said that our dear Sister gave her energies to 
the work of the linen wardrobe, but that this vast field of activity 
seemed little in harmony with her attractions to sweet contempla- 
tion and repose in God. No faiHng, however, was condoned: and 



53 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



as soon as she accused herself of the least inexactitude, she was 
severely reproved by our Most Honored Mother. One day Her 
Charity after having reproached her for her want of exertion, add- 
ed: **Ah, my Sister, you would do well to speak of this to Our 
Lord; for if our Sisters did no more work than you, the Commun- 
ity could not get along.'' Our dear Sister, docile as a child, re- 
lated all this to her Beloved, begging Him to make her more indus- 
trious, that she might please her good Mother : — 

"Listen, my Benigna," answered Jesus, "the Community has two 
purses, a material purse and a spiritual purse. If I would have 
thee labor for the profit of the spiritual purse, the Community shall 
lose nothing. As long as thou art in the wardrobe I will take care 
that the linen wears out less; this in itself will be a profit to the 
material purse. Be tranquil ; thy Mother shall be satisfied." 

In fact, our Most Honored Mother declared that, a short time 
after, Sister Benigna said to her: "My Mother, if Your Charity 
thinks proper, we can do without the aids you have given us for 
our office." The surprise of our Mother can be imagined, for or- 
dinarily the Sisters of the linen vv^ardrobe, overtaxed with labor, 
never had enough assistance. 

The simplicity with which our dear Sister conversed with her 
God enchants us so that we cannot forbear returning to her record. 
We read in the month of May, 191 5 : — "Jesus gives me all kinds of 
pleasures; the more my confidence in Him increases the more I en- 
joy the happy experience of His immense goodness. He foresees 
when I ought to cease or continue to write : Write one more Hne. 
He tells me, or else, Thou mayst depart; and instantly the clock 
strikes. To Him I abandon everything; I trust in Him for every- 
thing; I rely on Him even to awaken me in the morning; when He 
sees that His little Benigna is asleep, He lets her enjoy her repose 
till the proper moment. O how good it is to place one's self in the 
hands of God as a little child ! What peace the soul then enjoys ! The 
Lord has really transformed me ; and this happy change is the fruit 
of love. For two months I have enjoyed a hfe of peace, of inte- 
rior repose and tranquillity: this supernatural atmosphere is de- 
licious." 

The divine communications became so intimate and so habitual 
that our Most Honored Mother thought it well to leave her free 
during the hours of silence, that she might more easily fulfill her 
charge of "Secretary of Jesus." 

54 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



The Divine Spouse watched ever jealously over His Beloved, that 
nothing of what passed in her soul might appear in the exterior. 
He succeeded so well that while all admired her extraordinary vir- 
tue, and experienced in her presence something indescribable that was 
not common to the other Sisters, it remained there; we could not 
penetrate farther. 

We were not alone in feeling this supernatural influence; per- 
sons of the world were so affected. On one occasion among others 
when Sister Benigna Consolata assisted at the parlor, the mother of 
one of our Sisters who was there, was struck with her humble and 
recollected air. On returning home, she spoke of her continually 
with admiration and respect. Another person came one day to ask 
for some object belonging to the Sister whom she had seen the 
evening before in the parlor: "She is a saint," said she, "this object 
will be for me a relic." Our beloved Sister alone regarded herself 
ever with contempt ; she likened herself to a miserable worm of the 
earth, who, hearing the carriage of the King pass by, cries out : "Your 
Majesty ! Your Majesty !" then abysses herself in her nothingness, 
while the Sovereign Majesty deigns to stop and speak with her. 

One day, annihilated at the thought of her misery, she asked her 
Divine Master why He lavished on her so many favors. She re- 
ceived this response : — "Do not seek elsewhere than in thy constant 
fidelity to the recommendations of obedience, the reason for the ex- 
traordinary graces I bestow upon thee. O if souls knew the value 
of an act of obedience !'' 

We can truly say that Sister Benigna Consolata carried this vir- 
tue to its highest perfection; it was, so to say, rooted in her soul, 
according to the testimony of the two Superiors who governed 
our Community during her short religious life. They could place 
her above or below, send her to the right or to the left, humiliate 
her in season and out of season, give her charges or set her aside, 
they were certain of finding her always humble and submissive. 

"I wish thee to be faithfully faithful, my Benigna," Jesus had 
told her; '*a little act of fidelity may be the principle of great graces. 
Exact observance is, as it were, a perpetual Communion for the 
faithful soul ; for with each point of the Rule well observed, she 
receives an increase of grace; and when the soul receives an in- 
crease of grace, I communicate Myself to her." Our dear Sister 
was truly a worthy daughter of our Holy Founder; she had fully 
comprehended this lesson: — "Little things are little things, but 



55 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



fidelity in little things is a great thing." We must confess, however, 
that Sister Benigna Consolata was exaggerated in her exactitude, 
which brought upon her smart corrections. Far from becoming dis- 
couraged, she would recognize her mistake and endeavor to con- 
tain her fidelity within proper bounds. This continual application 
was a constant sacrifice, and the Crucified Spouse, who is pleased 
with suffering, assured her of His satisfaction: — "My Benigna, I 
love obedience so much that when I find it in a soul as it is in thine, 
I take My delights there. Do not let one of thy Mother's words 
fall to the ground. Thou dost beheve Me present under the smallest 
fragment of the Consecrated Host; so also thou must believe that 
I have committed My authority to the hands of the Superior ; though 
she were poor in natural and spiritual gifts, she holds My place as 
soon as she has been elected Superior ; and in this case Religious have 
only to revive their faith as they would before a particle of the Con- 
secrated Host." 

However, after all that has preceded, it must not be thought that 
the favored soul of our beloved Sister was always at a feast, and 
that, drawn by love's force into the way of sacrifice, she did not 
feel the thorns. Sister Benigna Consolata had her days of indes- 
cribable suffering: she experienced disgust, dejection, weariness, 
as we have already shown. 

We will cite a new proof from her notes of 191 5 : — "My Mother, 
Jesus is silent ; He has the goodness to assure me He does it for my 
good — to purify me. When Jesus is silent I am like a stone, and 
worse still, for a stone has no distractions, while I am filled with 
them, as well as with defects of all kinds. Ah, then I lay my fin- 
ger on my misery and see everywhere its beautiful productions. 
Sometimes the thought comes that I am abandoned by God; but I 
do not dwell on it ; confidence dominates everything." Later we read ; 
"I am always in the same disposition; I seem to be blind and deaf. 
No, it is not Jesus who is hidden ; it is I who am blind and see Him 
not; I, who am deaf and hear Him not. The first days I had a 
desire to weep ; but now I have courage and say to Jesus ; Sitivit 
anima mea; or else, Quemadmodum cervus. My Jesus, my most 
sweet Jesus, I believe in Thy love; though Thou shouldst slay me, 
I would believe in it still. Yes, my Jesus, if I saw myself hanging 
by a thread above hell, and this thread were held by Thy divine 
hand, I would in no wise fear ; even though it should break, I would 
not be afraid, because Thou couldst tie it together again. I know^ 



56 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



it is a great mercy on Thy part to treat me thus, for shouldst Thou 
deal with me as I deserve, Thou wouldst let me yield to the terri- 
ble temptations of the enemy and then strike me dead. This is what 
I deserve/' 

Yes, the infernal enemy was furious against her ; as formerly he 
had attacked the virgin of Siena, so he assaulted this little victim 
of Jesus, often even during the night. When at last vanquished he 
abandoned the field, it was pitiful to see our poor little Sister. — Al- 
though she lost nothing of her ordinary sweetness, her pale face and 
exhausted frame, her sad and languid air, inspired us all with com- 
passion ; we said to one another : "What has happened to our Sister 
Benigna Consolata that her Charity appears to be suffering so 
much?" Our Most Honored Mother alone knew the wiles and 
struggles of the demon, who coveted this prey, so rich and beautiful. 
He was forever laying new snares to make her fall, and so defeat 
the designs of God, who destined her to unfold to the world the ex- 
cess of His Mercy. 

"Great changes are being operated in my soul," she writes; **I 
pass from a celestial peace to a sorrow the more bitter because I 
cannot explain it My soul is in agony, and at the same time, by 
God's permission, is plunged in aridity and violently assailed by the 
the enemy." 

We find these pages delicious — these familiar confidences of our 
dear Sister with her Mother. — Let us listen again : "My Mother. 
Jesus makes me walk in a desert. What a life I go through ! True, 
He always says a few words to me ; but they are crumbs compared 
with a feast. I endeavor to be recollected in order to hear Him : I 
am, as it were, in a solitude." And some days after : "Now Jesus 
speaks to me; but my soul has no more sweetness or interior unc- 
tion. I am like a person who has lost the sense of taste; she eats 
savory dishes which nourish her, but she relishes nothing. I should 
like to leave this painful state ; but I can do nothing but suffer with- 
out relief, consumed by a little fire. I have already experienced 
this pain and even more severely ; it preceded, I think, the most 
precious graces of Jesus." 

In fact, Our Lord was preparing to dictate to her sublime pages 
that should make known to men His ineffable tenderness; and in 
order to render her worthy of fulfilling her mission. He purified her 
in the crucible of sorrow. She would have macerated her body with- 
out mercy; her fervor would have led her to wear cilices, to fast 



57 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



continually, to inflict cruel disciplines; but our holy Rules moder- 
ating this kind of austerities, she indemnified herself by mortification 
in everything, even in the smallest things." 

"My Benigna," said Jesus, "if souls had more faith, they would 
live on mortification as they live on bread, whereas they fly it as 
they would the plague." Our fervent Sister took to heart this re- 
proach and sought every occasion of suffering. As she made pro- 
gress in this way of renunciation, Jesus encouraged her to redouble 
her ardor : — "My Benigna, the farther thou dost advance in the way 
of mortification, the nearer thou wilt draw to God ; it is only the first 
step that costs. Cast a glance upon Jesus on the Cross, and thou 
wilt see thy program of mortification. Spiritual consolations will 
be thy recompense ; the more thou dost mortify the flesh, the more 
capable wilt thou be of comprehending the things of God. Jesus 
will dwell in thee according to the capacity He finds there." 

The love of suffering which devoured the heart of His Benjamin 
was infinitely pleasing to the Crucified Spouse; he exhorted her to 
grant self no satisfaction: — ''Treat thy body as an enemy; give 
it only what thou canst not refuse-" 

Sister Benigna Consolata, on account of her delicate constitution, 
had need of abundant nourishment, and often after the repast, she 
declared she was more hungry than when she took her seat at table. 
This natural tendency never served as a pretext to dispense her 
from mortification. She would have observed all the fasts very 
willingly; but this was permitted only the last year of her life, 
through the solicitation of Our Lord. "My Jesus, is it not to dis- 
obey if one ask for a thing that has always been refused?" "No, 
it is I," He answered, "who require thee to ask it ; if thy Superiors 
do not grant permission, do what they tell thee, not what I desire; 
if it should be permitted, I will give thee strength to accomplish the 
fast." Happy in obtaining consent, she fasted strictly, and her 
last Lent was a time of continual graces for her soul. She saw 
the words of her Divine Master verified : — "My Benigna, mortifi- 
cation is the channel through which my choicest graces pass ; if the 
channel is small, few graces pass ; but if it is great, many graces will 
pass." 

"Austere austerity," Our Lord said again," consists in putting a 
curb on nature by the bonds of rigorous mortification, enchaining 
it like a criminal ; contradicting it in everything ; if thou wouldst eat, 
drink; if thou wouldst drink, eat; if thou wouldst speak, be silent; 



58 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



if thou wouldst be silent, speak. When in doubt as to a choice be- 
tween two things, not knowing which to choose, see on which side 
there is more mortification ; for where there is more mortification 
there is more perfection." 

In response to the instructions of Jesus, and with the end of win- 
ning souls to Him, Sister Benigna Consolata suffered often and will- 
ingly a burning thirst. During her repasts she sometimes deprived 
her appetite even of necessary food, so that after Matins she would 
be compelled to go trembling to our Most Honored Mother and say : 
"My Mother, I am hungry." Our Mother, moved with pity, would 
get her a piece of bread ; sometimes she would accept it with grati- 
tude; but more frequently she would thank her, saying: "No, my 
Mother, it is enough that I have made an act of simplicity." While 
in bed, she always kept the same posture; and if sometimes she 
sought a better one, Jesus would sweetly say : ''Benigna, thy Spouse 
on the Cross did not turn to seek a little relief !" She had ever new 
inventions for self-constraint and self-torment, in order to please 
her Well-Beloved, who rewarded the generousity of His little vic- 
tim by augmenting her thirst for sufferings. At times, however, 
touched by the ardor of her spirit and the fragility of her body. He 
would say: "This is enough, Benigna; now take repose." Little by 
little, she obtained from her Superiors permission to converse with 
her good Master during two hours of the night. These colloquies, 
which our dear Sister has left us in writing, are delicious ; and we 
long to hasten by our prayers the moment when these pages shall be 
published. 

"O how I desire to love Him and be faithful to Him !" she cries 
out : "this desire consumes me. The more He seems to hide Him- 
self, the more I feel I love Him ; I wish so much to love Him ! It 
is Jesus Himself who gives me this ardor, for all good comes from 
Him. He is silent, but His grace is destroying all the productions 
of my nature ; I feel detached from everything, and urged to humble 
myself more and more. He gives me such a love of contempt that I 
can no longer resist the solicitations of grace-" 

Pursuing the course of her notes, we read : — "A state of more in- 
timate union with God has succeeded to the interior word. I was 
like a child with whom its mother talks as she holds it in her arms ; 
while now, I feel pressed to the Heart of Jesus; and in this sweet 
embrace Love says much. I see that the soul, and especially my soul, 
is nourished with God. I feel powerfully attracted, but in darting to- 



59 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



ward Him, I cry out, O my God, who art Thou and who am I ? This 
sole thought that an infinite God permits us to love Him, ravishes 
me." 

The blessed time during which she conversed with her incompa- 
ra^ble Master seemed very short to our dear Sister. Nevertheless, 
always faithful she was on the alert not to overstep the hour 
marked by obedience. We have several clocks in the Monastery; 
as soon as she heard the first, Sister Benigna would say simply to 
Our Lord that the clock had struck and their colloquy must end. 
Jesus would remark that it was not the Church clock and that He 
had yet time to say: "Nigna of gold, goodnight, adieu!" After 
these divine colloquies, she was so inflamed with the love of her 
Spouse that sometimes she could not sleep for the rest of the night ; 
and this troubled her lest she had failed in obedience. 

She was always in a state of immolation, refusing to her senses 
the most innocent gratifications. If our dear Sister took wings at 
the least sign of obedience to fulfill it, yet when there was question 
of learning some news, of seeing something beautiful, she was never 
eager, and even renounced the gratification, when she could make this 
little sacrifice without attracting notice. She knew how to min- 
gle the little grain of myrrh with everything. 

"Dost thou think it preferable to take thy ease rather than sacri- 
fice it for my love?" said Jesus to her one day. "Why are there 
so few contemplatives, so few souls, even among religious, to whom 
I can impart extraordinary graces? It is because there is not enough 
mortification. I have sought in vain, I find very few. This does 
not do you honor. My spouses ! I love you so much, I compassionate 
you ; what I say to you, I say through love ; for my desire is to bes- 
tow on you great graces, but I cannot do so unless you are morti- 
fied." 

These sweet and powerful lessons touched the heart of our fer- 
vent Sister, who daily exerted all her strength to put them in prac- 
tice. Ordinarily, she kept her eyes downcast, as we have said; even 
during recreation she rarely raised them. In the Choir during the 
holy Office, she was remarkable for her humble demeanor, devout 
and seriously loving, as is marked. When seated she did not lean 
in any way; and her feet she kept raised from the ground, which 
caused her real pain on account of her tall stature. During prayer 
she was totally absorbed in God ; and in spite of weariness or of the 
heat, she kept her hands joined, a little removed from the breast. 

60 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



Once when, overcome with fatigue, she sat down during this holy 
exercise, Our Lord said to her: — ''Did those who accompanied me 
to Calvary carry seats with them?" She never did it again. 

We have the pious custom in our Monastery, of making the Holy 
Hour every Thursday evening after Matins. Sister Benigna Con- 
solata was always one of the most fervent. We were struck by 
her immobility and recollection. Compelled to fight against sleep, 
it happened one night that she yielded ; "My Jesus, I am sleepy,'* 
she said. He answered her with ineffable tenderness, "I compas- 
sionate thee." Another time her good Master declared that if a Sis- 
ter passed all the time of the Holy Hour in struggling against sleep 
it would be an agreeable offering, because it is sacrifice which pleases 
Him. 

Sacrifice ! It is a word repeated incessantly by the blessed lips 
of Jesus. 

The instructions He gives our beloved Sister on this subject are 
found, we may say, on every page of her numerous writings. 

"Benigna, few souls walk with a rapid step in the way of love, be- 
cause there are very few who enter generously into the way of 
sacrifice. H one is constant in sacrifice, she is constant in love: if 
she falters in sacrifice, she falters in love. My Benigna, when there 
is question of sacrifice, never say, it is enough ; this would mean : 
I do not desire that love should increase in my soul. Nothing 
augments love in the soul like the Cross. All I ask of thee is mor- 
tification, and above all mortification of the spirit ; because if exterior 
mortification is one of the conditions I require for the bestowal of 
my graces, that of the spirit is necessary to make great pro- 
gress in perfection. My Benigna, with mortification thou wilt give 
me empty vases, which I will fill with oil; the more thou wilt give 
me, the more I will fill them; and when thou hast none the oil will 
cease." 

Interior mortification was the great battle-field of our dear Sis- 
ter; there she practiced self-annihilation, abandoning herself to all 
the requirements of divine love. 



6i 



Sister Benign a Consolata Ferrero 



V 



HER UNION WITH THE SUPER- 



lOR: SUPERNATURAL GIFTS: 



WAY OF CONFIDENCE AND 



LOVE 



Our Honored Mother guided her beloved daughter according to 
the desires of our Lord. On her side, Sister Benigna Consolata con- 
fided to her everything, manifesting to Her Charity the deepest grat- 
itude. She says herself on this subject: "How I bless my Divine 
Master for giving me so great an opening of heart toward our 
Mother! After our conferences I am all inflamed with divine love- 
True, the enemy tries to take away my peace ; but as he reveals his 
presence by the trouble he causes me, I do not let him disturb me." 

He was furious, in fact ; he dreads the perfect union of religious 
souls with their Superior, and hence his malice was redoubled in af- 
flicting this generous soul. "I experienced a great repugnance 
once," she wrote, ''in submitting to an arrangement of obedience 
which contradicted my will, and I almost failed in patience toward 

our Mother : but I went afterward and asked her pardon My Jesus, 

mercy ! Benigna has done as Benigna knows how to do ; now do as 
Jesus knows how to do. I am so blind to my own faults that I do 
not even see them." Her Divine Spouse encouraged her in this fil- 
ial union with her Superior : ''My Benigna, it is through the Mother 
that my graces pass ; if a soul is united with her Mother she receives 
them. Visitandines are called in a special manner to imitate my 
hidden life in Nazareth ; and my obedience to my holy Mother is 
the model of the union which should exist between religious and 
their Superior. Yes, my Benigna, all religious ought to practice 
this obedience, but especially Visitandines. Be for thy Mother an 
open book where she can read at her pleasure." Docile to the divine 

62 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



lesson, Sister Benigna manifested even the least fold of her soul, 
with the simplicity of a child; so that our Mother compared her to 
one of those streamlets which, clear as crystal, show us all the little 
pebbles that line the watery bed. 

The same childlike candor overflows in her relations with her 
Divine Master : "Listen, my Jesus ; the Cananean woman told thee 
that the crumbs were for the dogs ; and I come to tell thee that I 
would be content with those which the ants leave ; for these little in- 
sects have never offended thee, and have more right than I to be fed." 
Later, rendering an account of prayer, she said : "I help myself 
as much as I can, thinking of something that will make me ad- 
vance; if I cannot think, I protest to Jesus that I love Him, and 
abandon myself to His will, too happy to be all His and forever, 
which I hope from His infinite mercy. I am always blind and deaf ; 
but I repeat to Jesus my chant of perfect adhesion to His will, and 
this consoles me infinitely." A little farther: "My soul has become 
sad again. May the will of God be done ! I trust in Thee, O Jesus ! 
I wish so much, so much, so much to love Thee !" 

If humility kept her ordinarily in profound recollection, our be- 
loved Sister practiced no less the sweet virtue of charity. She had 
lost the tendency to self-will that was prominent in her childhood : 
and under the powerful action of grace, her character had become 
sweet and mild. She truly imitated our holy Founder by her amia- 
bility. "Benigna," said Jesus, "charity is sweet, but the gentleness 
of charity is sweeter still. Let thy words be a perfume of sweetness. 
I would have thee in the Monastery what the perfume is to the 
flower ; it betrays it even in the shade. I will keep thee hidden so 
as to hold thee in security; but thou. My Benigna, do not forget 
that thy mission is to attract hearts to Me by thy sweetness." 

Nothwithstanding her frequent and painful aridities, Sister Be- 
nigna Consolata was always willing to lend her services to anyone; 
she compassionated our little sufferings and always had the right word 
of consolation. In her relations with us, she carefully kept the thorns 
of little daily self-denials, to leave to her neighbor only the roses. 
We all retain a sweet memory of her exquisite charity; and if space 
permitted, we would relate many examples. Suffice it to say that she 
faithfully conformed to the program her Well-Beloved had traced 
out for her. "Benigna, charity must cost something; the soul must 
impose constant sacrifices upon herself if she would exercise char- 
ity well." 



63 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



But if our dear Sister's delicacy of heart went so far as to divine 
our trials, our little inconveniences, our least desires, how can we 
estimate her tenderness and compassion for Jesus afflicted and out- 
raged? He deigned to reveal to her the anguish of His Sacred Heart. 
Silent, burning tears betrayed the secret, profound sorrow of His 
little spouse. Often on leaving prayer or after Matins she felt an ir- 
resistible need of consolation, and with her head resting on the ma- 
ternal heart, she shed a flood of tears. 

We quote from the too brief Memoir of Father Piccinelli : "Dur- 
ing the frightful war of 1914-1918, the Confidant of the divine se- 
crets was urged several times by her Superiors to obtain the cessation 
of the terrible scourge. Jesus responded to her ardent and repeated 
supplications by words full of consolation. It was not a chastise- 
ment of His Justice upon the world, otherwise its sins would already 
have caused its destruction ; it was a chastisement sent by His Mercy 
to save a multitude of souls running to their eternal ruin. 'One mo- 
ment suffices for the Father to gain a soul,' added the Saviour 

As to those who would remain obstinate, it was mercy also to short- 
en their lives here below that their torments might be less dread- 
ful in eternity. And the Divine Heart stimulated ever more and 
more the generous ardor of Sister Benigna Consolata for the salva- 
tion of souls, promising her that great graces would be the reward of 
even the smallest acts of fidelity offered for this end. At last on July 
4, 191 5, Jesus required of her the sacrifice of her life, to obtain 
Peace according to the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff." 

On the morning of Shrove-Tuesday, March 7, 1916, Sister Be- 
nigna Consolata had a vision. The Sacred Heart appeared under the 
the form of a Heart of flesh, torn by furious dogs that outraged It hor- 
ribly. She understood by this, the sorrows of Jesus during these days 
of disorder. Without absenting herself from the little extraordinary 
recreations prescribed by the Rule, she found moments to pray and 
console her Adorable Master, and obtained permission to make sup- 
plementary practices on that day in a spirit of expiation. In the even- 
ing Our Lord, with touching goodness, told His Benigna that He 
had accepted her reparation and had seen her with pleasure obey 
her Rule by taking part in the recreations for the love of Him. 

Our dear Sister related to our Mother that while she was yet a 
child Jesus had told her with infinite sadness that men preferred the 
most contemptible things to Him, so little did they know His love ; 
she was deeply moved and pained by it ; and having then to go out 



64 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus'* 



through the noisy streets, she returned home without having seen 
or heard anything. 

We have observed that her first notes were dated November, 1902. 
In fact, she avowed to our Mother that though in obedience she 
had commenced to write at that time, Our Lord had spoken to her 
long before. In the year 1900 she had made a temporary vow of 
chastity, then aged fifteen, — a vow she afterward rendered perpetual 
in the hands of her Confessor. 

It is impossible to enumerate the treasures of graces with which 
our beloved Sister was favored. We would like to come to the end 
of her life, but we find it impossible to hasten, such precious in- 
structions are hidden in the writings we have in our hands. On 
June 13, 1915, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we read: "He said 
to me in a sweet, sad tone : My Benigna, give me souls ! The plain- 
tive words of my Adorable Master moved me profoundly. — How 
shall I give Thee souls, my Jesus? — By sacrifices, He responded. 
Yes, my Benigna, I would have thee in a continual state of sacri- 
fice. When thou art not in a disposition to sacrifice thyself thou 
shouldst feel ill at ease- Revive this fire continually in thy heart. 
Souls are not saved if nothing is done for them. I died on the Cross 
to save them I ask of thee no great thing — only a word with- 
held, a look repressed, a pleasant thought banished, in a word all 
that restrains and mortifies nature. These little things, united to 
My infinite merits, acquire a great value. If thou knewest how those 
souls please Me who immolate themselves in silence !" 

Three days afterward He explained the martyrdom of love : — 
"My Benigna, in what consists the martyrdom of love? It consists 
in surrendering oneself to love as wood to the fire, or gold in the 
crucible ; fire consumes the wood and reduces it to ashes ; fire puri- 
fies the gold and makes it resplendent. A soul surrendered to Love 
can no longer interrupt the operations of Love unless by her infidel- 
ity she deprives herself of its action. As fire consumes the wood 
entirely, so Love continues to work until the soul has arrived at 
the degree of perfection which God requires of it. It suffices to sur- 
render wholly to Love, then Love will do the rest. But remark 
this well: when the wood is green the fire must first consume its 
humidity, and this takes more time : but if the wood be dry, it is im- 
mediately consumed, and the more rapidly according as the wood is 
more dry. So it is with souls : those who are still full of themselves 
find great difficulty in yielding to the action of Love ; but souls dead 



65 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



to themselves are quickly consumed. 

"Provided I find good will in a soul, I am never weary of looking 
upon its miseries- My love is fed by consuming miseries ; the soul 
that brings Me the most, if the heart is contrite and humble, is the 
one that pleases Me most, because she gives Me an opportunity of 
exercising more fully My office of Saviour. But what I wish partic- 
ularly to say to thee. My Benigna, is that the soul ought never to be 
afraid of God, because God is all-merciful; the greatest pleasure 
of the Sacred Heart of thy Jesus is to lead to His Father numer- 
ous sinners; they are My glory and My jewels. I love poor sinners 
so much! Listen, My Benigna, My Joy, write this: — The greatest 
pleasure souls can give Me is to believe in My love; the more they 
believe in it, the greater is My pleasure; and if they wish that My 
pleasure should be immense, let them place no limits to their faith 
in My love. 

"My Benigna, I will tell thee yet more of the martyrdom of Love. 

The soul must let itself be consumed by Love Love is ingenious 

enough to know how to take everything away from the soul, without 
appearing to take away anything. 

"Let it act, and it will despoil thee. It will commence by the ex- 
terior, as the fire first consumes the bark ; then it will penetrate into 
the interior. Benigna, give to Love all that it asks, and never say : It 
is enough. The more thou givest, the more it will demand, but 
always with great sweetness. Love will augment in thee the desire 
of giving. I have very few souls surrendered so wholly to Love, be- 
cause it is painful. Certain souls commence well, but turn back ; they 
are afraid of sacrifice ; I compare them to those persons who will not 
pluck a rose for fear they will be pricked. True love does not act 
so; wherever it sees a sacrifice, it darts upon it as its prey; it folds 
and embraces it; and the more hidden the sacrifice, the more in- 
terior and known to God alone, the more willingly is it performed. 
Courage, then. Tell Me thou givest Me thy will forever because 
thou wilt have no other movement than that of Love ; then remain 
firm, and know that when a soul commences generously, she is al- 
ways well received by My Heart. Thou mayst repair lost time by a 
greater fideHty in the present and especially by using the treasures 
of My most sweet Heart." 

On July 4, 1915, with the consent of her Superiors, she made the 
sacrifice of her life, which Jesus had demanded : — "Love wishes to 
precipitate its work in thee : Love will invest thee, Love will consume 



66 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



thee, but with so much sweetness that while suffering the martyrdom 
of Love, thou wilt desire to suffer still more. My Benigna, the 
thirst I experience of saving the greatest possible number of souls, 
impels Me to seek generous ones whom I can associate in My work 
of love. Thou wilt be the victim of My Justice and the consolation 
of My Love. Thou wilt be consumed by Love. Yes, My little spouse, 
I accept thy sacrifice with all the expansion of My love. I will im- 
molate thee, but it will be always with the sword of Love- I will 
enchain thee, but with the bonds of love. I will consume thee, but 
in the fire of My Love." 

"On August 25, 191 5," she continues, "He gave me the Decalogue 
of Love; the day following that of Humility; on the 31st of the 
same month, that of Perfection; on the nth of September, He dic- 
tated to me the Decalogue of Confidence, and mercifully revealed 
to me the depth of my corruption; on the 12th, He gave me the 
Decalogue of Mercy, and on the 28th, the Treatise of Charity; on 
October 30th, I received His counsels for the time of aridity and for 
that of spiritual consolations. On the 7th and 12th of November, 
He dictated to me the Via Crucis; on the 24th, He instructed me on 
Purity of Intention." 

We pause here, fearing to have been already too prolix. We 
shall only observe that these precious treatises, prayers, thoughts, 
and excerpts from the writings of our dear Sister, have been pub- 
lished in a little brochure entitled : — Vadc Meciim proposed to the 
Religions Soul by a Pious Author (a name suggested by Jesus Him- 
self to the Religious) a brochure that has met with general satis- 
faction and has already attained a wide circulation. 

Referring one day to the graces which He had lavished upon her, 
Jesus told her that in time her writings would be printed and thus 
the divine favors published. "Benigna, what shall we call them?" 
He asked. "H the favors of Jeanne Benigne Gojos are named : The 
Charm of Divine Love, thine should bear this title : — The Delicacies 
and Tendernesses of the Love of Jesus for a Little Soiil" Another 
day He ended one of His divine colloquies thus: — "See how thy 
name is written in My most sweet Heart: Benigna Consolata, Benja- 
min of the Heart of Jesus. ...And now write the explanation of thy 
name under the dictate of Love: — ^^^ 



-We have considered that the initial words, as they fell from the 
blessed lips of Jesus, would gratify the pious desires of our readers. 

67 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



B. — Bonta infinita Bounty of God, infinite in thy regard. 

E. — Elevati in Dio Elevate thy heart to God by continual acts 

of love. 

N. — Nega niente all' amor e Never refuse anything to the love 

of thy Jesus. 

I. — Intenzione pura Intention most pure of pleasing God in 

all thou doest, in all thou sayest, in all thou thinkest, 
in all thou desirest. 

G. — Generosita con Dio Generosity towards God, generosity of 

love, generosity of sacrifice, generosity in action, gen- 
erosity in silence- Greatness of the graces which God 
grants thee, although under an ordinary appearance. 

N. — Niente altro ricordo No longer remind Me of anything of 

the past except the humiliations to which thou hast 
submitted for My love, which I have always present 
to delight and please Me in thee. 

A. — Ardore nelVamore Ardor in love. Love Me with ardor. 

My little Queen. Remember that thou art eternally 
loved by thy God, who was made Man and died for 
thee. 

C- — Confidenza nel tuo Gesii Confidence in thy Jesus, who 

loves thee so much, a loving confidence, a boundless 
confidence. 

O. — Olocausto prezioso Offer thyself a precious holocaust to 

divine love. 

N. — Non timore No fear, but always love. 

S. — Spirito di sacrificio Spirit of sacrifice, spirit of prayer, 

spirit of mortification. 

O. — Offriti air amor e Offer thyself to the love of thy Jesus 

not only every day, but all the day, every minute of the 
day. 

L. — Loda Dio per tutti Laus ejus in ore meo- Praise God al- 
ways for all the benefits I have bestowed upon thee. 

A. — Ardore nella preghiera Ardor in prayer. Let thy life, 

O my Benigna, be one continual prayer ! 

T. — Taci per dar tempo a Dio di parlare Take to heart silence 

and give God time to speak. Be silent and never jus- 
tify thyself; be silent and never praise thyself; be 
silent to bury thyself in the hidden life ; be silent about 
the arrangements of obedience ; be silent regarding the 



68 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



operations of love, which though coming from Love, 
are sometimes very dolorous. Imitate the silence of 
Jesus : Jesus aiitem tacebat. In silence is the strength 
of thy interior life, because I always support the faith- 
ful soul. 

A. — Abbandono finalmente Abandonment, finally, My Benigna, 

of all thy being to the Heart of Jesus, who loves thee 
so much. Remember that thou art all Love's, that 
thou art the possession of Love." 
On the 3rd of December, Jesus said to her: — "How sweet is 
thy name of Benigna ! It is to Me like honey. If they wish to find 
Benigna, they must seek her in My Heart." Another time He ex- 
claimed : — "I no longer know how to name thee. I have called thee 
my Lily, my Dove, My Queen ; I call thee now the apple of My eye, 
the heart of My Heart." 

On the 13th of August of the same year, (1915) before dictating 
to her the Decalogue of Love, He had said : — "Nigna, little Secretary 
of My love for My creatures, thou shalt write, others shall publish 
thy writings. Thine it is to taste the Gift of God in silence ; others 
shall propagate these pages for the glory of God- Thine is the hap- 
piness of reposing on the Heart of thy Jesus while He speaks to 
Thee; others shall distribute these treasures; thine is the part of 
Mary, others that of Martha. 

"Write, my Benigna, Apostle of my Mercy, write this : The prin- 
cipal thing I desire to make known is that I am all Love ; the great- 
est pain souls can give Me is to doubt My goodness. Not only does 
My Heart feel compassion, but It rejoices when there is much to re- 
pair, provided souls have no malice. If thou couldst know how pow- 
erfully I would operate in a soul, even filled with miseries, if she 
would let Me! Love has need of nothing, but it must find no re- 
sistance. Often all that is required of a soul to render it holy, is to 
let Me act. Imperfections cannot displease Me, unless the soul loves 
them. She should use them as so many steps of the ladder to mount 
to Me by means of humility, confidence and love; I descend to the 
soul that humbles herself, and go to seek her in her nothingness to 
unite Myself to her. 

"The whole secret of sanctity lies in these two words ; distrust and 
trust. Distrust always in thyself, but not stopping there, rise im- 
mediately to trust in God; for if I am good to all, I am especially 
good to those who trust in Me. Knowest thou what souls profit most 



69 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



by My goodness? Those who trust the most. Trusting souls are 
the robbers of My graces. Write that the pleasure I take in the 
trusting soul is inexpressible. 

"As the fire is fed with combustibles, and increases according as 
they are supplied, so My mercy is nourished with the miseries it 
consumes, and the more it receives the more it increases. O My 
Benigna, if men knew how I love them and how My Heart rejoices 
when they believe in My love! They believe in it too little, too 
little! 

"They know not the wrong they do to God in doubting His divine 
goodness ! Sins may be enormous and numerous ; but provided that 
the soul returns to Me, I am always ready to pardon all, to forget 
all. Thou art the Apostle of the Mercy of God ; I have made choice 
of thee that thou mayst become the channel of the Divine Mercies. 

"Write then that I make the most beautiful masterpieces with the 
most miserable subjects, provided they will let Me. When a soul re- 
pents of her faults and deplores them, thinkest thou I am so hard 
as not to receive her? If so, thou knowest not My Heart. My most 
loving Heart has such a thirst for the salvation of souls, that when 
they return to Me I cannot contain my joy ; I run to meet them. The 
greatest injury the demon can cause a soul after having made it 
fall into sin, is to incite it to distrust. As long as a soul has confi- 
dence, her return is easy; but if the demon succeeds in closing the 
heart with distrust, O how I have to struggle to reconquer it ! 

"Write, my Benigna, that all may know this: It is certain that a 
hundred sins offend Me more than one alone; but if this single sin 
is distrust of Me, it wounds My Heart more than the hundred others, 
because distrust wounds My Heart to its innermost core. I love men 
so much ! 

''Yes, they have too narrow an idea of the goodness of God, of His 
mercy, His love for His creatures. They measure God by creatures, 
and God has no limits ; His goodness is without bounds. O that 
men are able to use God and will not do it! Why is this? Because 
the world knows Him not. I am an infinite treasure which My Fath- 
er has placed at the disposal of all. They who reject Me will com- 
prehend their misfortune only in Eternity. I love men ; I love them 
tenderly as My dear brethren ; although there is an infinite distance 
between them and Me, I make no account of it. 

"Thou canst not conceive the pleasure I take in fulfilling My 
Mission of Saviour. When sins have been pardoned, they become 



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THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



for the soul fountains of graces because they are perpetual sources 
of humility. Everything contributes to the advancement of a soul, 
everything; even her imperfections are in My divine hands like so 
many precious stones, because I change them into acts of humility, 
which I inspire the soul to make. If those who build houses could 
transform the debris and all that obstructs their work into mate- 
rials of construction, how fortunate they would consider themselves ! 
Well, the faithful soul does this with the aid of My divine grace; 
and her faults, even the gravest and most shameful, become fun- 
damental stones of the edifice of her perfection/' 

We are truly at the source of Hving waters, at the blessed foun- 
tains of the Saviour. May these refreshing and marvellous waters 
soon have their free course! They will bear, we sweetly trust, 
abundant fruits of grace and salvation. 

But let us return to our dear Sister : — "I was plunged in the con- 
sideration of my nothingness, seeing in myself so many miseries," 
she writes, "when I heard Jesus say sweetly to me : — Sell them to 
My Mercy! Another day, I had placed a statuette of the Infant 
Jesus near the sheet of paper on which I was writing ; a light move- 
ment I made caused it to fall. I raised it immediately and gave a 
kiss to the little Jesus, saying to Him; If you had not fallen you 
would not have had that kiss.^^^ And He answered me with incredible 
sweetness : — It is just the same, My Benigna, when thou hast com- 
mitted an ivoluntary fault; thou dost not offend Me; but the act 
of humility and love thou makest deliberately afterward, is the kiss 
thou givest Me, which I would not have received hadst thou not 
committed that imperfection." 

We cannot but be astounded at the tenderness and familiarity of 
a God toward His little creature ! We may say that there is not a sin- 
gle place in our Monastery that has not been a witness of these divine 



I. — "Adest dilectus, amovetur magister, rex disparet, dignitas exuitur, 
reverentia ponitur. Cedit quippe fastus, ubi invalescit effectus. Et 
sicut quondam quasi amicus ad amjcum Moyses loquebatur, et 
Dominus respondebat : ita et nunc inter Verbum et Animam, ac 
si in-ter duos vicinos familiaris admodum celebratur confabulatio. 
(St. Bernard, Serm. XLV in Cant.) 

"Once the Beloved is present the Master disappears, the King vanishes. 
Majesty is effaced, awe laid aside. Transcendence in truth yields 
where love grows strong. And as of old, like friend to friend, 
Moses spake and the Lord answered, so even now between the 
Word and the Soul, as if between two familiar neighbors, the most 
intimate converse prevails." 

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Sister Benign a Consolata Ferrero 



confidences. The cell in which our dear Sister received the instruc- 
tions and caresses of the Divine Master is a sacred place for us- Did 
not He Himself tell His beloved to consider it a Sanctuary? 

If it is sweet to refresh our souls with these precious teachings of 
Jesus, it is not without emotion that we read the numerous rendi- 
tions of prayer of His humble chosen one. The ardent love she 
.bore her Well-beloved is revealed in its fullness, while her soul is 
unveiled with a simplicity that is enchanting, in that she touches with 
a certain sublime artlessness the summits of the highest perfection. 
We come to the opening of the year 191 5 : — ^"Today Jesus demanded ; 
My Benigna, wouldst thou have Me tell thee of thy interior state ? — 
I do not know, my Jesus; do as Thou wilt. — Very well, write: My 
interior state is a state of peace, of confidence and love ; my repose 
is God, my desire is God." 

She adds : — "The prayer that Jesus has taught me is very sweet ; 
the soul is not fatigued ; it is nourished and at rest as if she saw." 
And another time :-"Jesus becomes ever more sweet in His guidance 

of me He fills me with Himself I have a continual thirst for 

prayer; I have a thirst for spiritual reading, but above all, I have 
a thirst for Jesus. There are moments in which I feel an immense 
need of God, an ardent desire to love Him for all those who love 
Him not, to supply for what they will not do for Him. I do not 
see God, but I feel Him, and I would like to die to be united to 
Him.'' 

At the end of this year (1915), during the days which preceded 
the Feast of Christmas, as we were talking in recreation of the ap- 
proaching Solemnity, Our Lord murmured in her ear: "This will 
be thy last Christmas ; I am going to take thee to Paradise." 

In January, 1916, the last year of her life, our dear Sister dis- 
closed her heart on this subject: — "During these days I feel an ex- 
cessive desire of Heaven. I am like a person impatient to depart on 
a beautiful journey. Yes, my beloved Mother, if Jesus no longer 
lets me hear His voice, perhaps it is because He is going to call me 
to Himself so soon. I know not, but I love Him so much, that dur- 
ing the night when I awaken, my thought and my heart fly to my 
God. O happy moments, in which the soul sighs after God, hears 
God, is fed with God! A hunger for prayer devours me, and my 
occupations not permitting me to practice it during the day with the 
ardor which Jesus gives me, I feel the need of supplying for it dur- 
ing the night. If anyone were to ask me: — Benigna, what dost 



72 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



thou desire? I would answer: Heaven! I desire to go to my God. 
I desire to be always in prayer ; I desire to be one with God ; this is 
why it is painful to speak with creatures, because I am in a celestial 
atmosphere, and feel the need still more of sacrificing myself in the 
future." 

In the month of February, Sister Benigna Consolata relapsed into 
aridity. ^'J^sus is silent, and my helplessness increases," she writes. 
"My soul tries in vain to excite a little fervor; I see in myself only 
miseries and infidelities My Jesus, mercy!" 

The short visits of the Saviour brought to her ineffable happiness ; 
then anew came darkness and desolation to invade her soul. "I am 
like a tree stripped of its fruits. Jesus, fiat always ! All for love- 
My Jesus, give me Thyself, then take away all the rest. May Thy 
Holy Name be blessed !" Some time after she records : "In this 
painful state I do not lose the presence of God ; I pray, I make aspira- 
tins, but the good Jesus is silent. However, He Himself makes me 
love this suffering, for it glorifies Him ; yes, pure love ought to make 
it preferable to divine consolations. My Jesus, render me strong, 
generous and constant in Thy love. As a proof of Thy divine pres- 
ence. Thou sheddest in my soul a delicious peace; the enemy tries 
hard to trouble it ; but, O Jesus ! if Thou dost guard Benigna, she is 
in safety." 

After these long and painful days of trial, borne with admirable 
resignation, after the frightful assaults of Satan, furious at seeing 
this sweet victim snatch from him so great a number of souls, Jesus 
comes to console her: "My Benigna, the measure is full, thou hast 
put on the last grain." — "My Jesus, what is it that leads Thee to 
speak to me again ?'" — "Benigna, it is the humiliation of thy soul and 
thy constant fidelity in spite of aridity; if Thou findest no joy in 
it, I find it, Benigna." — "My Jesus, how couldst Thou suffer this 
state to last so long a time?" — "It was for thy good ; I wish to prepare 
thee to receive new graces; I have taken away consolations so as 
to give thee an opportunity to pratice perfect charity. One Ave Maria 
said without sensible fervor, but with a pure will in time of aridity, 
has much more value in My eyes, than an entire Rosary re- 
cited in the midst of consolations. Write this for the comfort of 
souls." 

Some days after, she adds : — "Jesus tells me that after His grace, 
the Cross is the most precious gift He can make to a soul." 

In these precious notes we are struck especially by the complaints 



73 



Sister Benign a Con sol at a Ferrero 



of God, the pressing appeals of His loving Heart, which becomes a 
mendicant for the love of His creatures. — "O my Benigna! be the 
Apostle of my love ! Cry aloud so that all the world may hear, that 
I hunger, I thirst, I die to be received by My creatures. I am in the 
Sacrament of My love for My creatures, and they make so little ac- 
count of it ! O do thou at least. My Benigna, make as many spirit- 
ual communions as possible to supply for the Sacramental Commun- 
ions which are not made. One every quarter of an hour is not 
enough. Make them shorter, but more numerous. If a wife saw 
her spouse dying of hunger, she would go from door to door to 
beg for Him. My Benigna, seek to draw souls to receive Me in Holy 
Communion. What I say to thee, communicate to thy Mother. Thou 
art the Apostle of My love; but when thy body shall be under the 
earth, and thy soul in Heaven like a little atom in My Heart for all 
eternity, then it will be thy Mother who will make known to souls 
what thou shalt have written-" 

Again He says : — "O My Benigna ! what gives Me most pain is to 
see the indifference, the hatred they have for Me. They fly from Me 
as they would fly from a robber or an assassin ; from Me, who ask 
only to replenish souls with My graces : but I cannot do it because 

they do not desire them My Benigna, I thirst for the love of My 

creatures. The Seraphim love Me ardently, the saints love Me, and 
their love is pure and perfect. I have great love in Heaven, yet I come 
to earth to seek it because on earth their love is free." As Jesus 
saw His Benjamin afflicted at what she had just heard. He con- 
soled her : — "Benigna, I have good souls, even in the world ; and in 
them I take My delight. They are the oases in which I repose in 
the midst of the desert-" 



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THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



VI 



RETREAT OF LOVE: HER SOL- 



EMN PROFESSION WITH LOVE 



The Happy confidant of the Heart of Jesus and the incessant 
laments of His love, unknown and outraged, could no longer live here 
below; she sighed ardently after the eternal union. The divine 
Lover, who was preparing to consume His dear victim, wishing to 
purify her more, invited her to make a retreat, during which He 
Himself would be her Director. 

"Ask permission of thy Mother," said He, "to withdraw into sol- 
itude from the eve of the 20th of June to July 2 inclusively." Our 
dear Sister remarked that this would make twelve days, whereas our 
annual retreats last only ten ; but Our Lord answered, "Twelve days 
are not too much to prepare thee for death." On June 19th, at 
the Obedience, our Honored Mother announced that Sister Benigna 
Consolata would enter into retreat. Everyone embraced her affec- 
tionately, recommending herself to her fervent prayers. We all 
wished her a good retreat and a speedy return. Alas ! she was to 
return to us for so short a time ! Sweet and smiling as usual, she gave 
us marks of affection, assuring us of her prayers, while her face 
was radiant with happiness. 

Love attracted her. Like a dove she was to retire into the hol- 
low of the rock with her Well-Beloved, to learn to know Him better 
and to love Him more. From the first, Sister Benigna Consolata 
descended into the abyss of her misery, not to indulge in a disquieting 
repentance, but to be established in the plenitude of peace, in the cer- 
tainty of divine pardon and of the predilection of Jesus for her 
soul. 

Her heavenly Director left her some days in the purgative Hfe, 
trying her sweetly and gently- Before all He wished to break off 
her habit of self-inspection, of exaggerating her troubles, of re- 

75 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



peating her examens, made up of a thousand little nothings, etc. — 
"In the Meditation of the Creation this morning," she writes, "I saw 
what a mistake a servant would make who would prefer to be sweep- 
ing or dusting, when her Master wished she should be taking care 
of the children I am the servant of the Lord; I ought, there- 
fore, to prefer my Master's will to my own. Now, His will is that 
I should devote my attention to souls, and set aside my own interests 
to take care of His. When I had finished this Meditation, He 
deigned to favor me with a conference. — My Benigna, He said, 
there is an apostolate of the interior life, of immolation, of the hid- 
den life: it is that of the Visitation I am raising an army and 

I call souls to combat for Love. The most generous are those who 

serve in the first line My Benigna, I am going to explain this 

great word, annihilation. Annihilation means death. A thought 
comes which pleases thee ; banish it, forget it, and it is the death of 
that thought; sacrifice a desire, and it is the death of that desire; 
when thou hast a will to do something and renouncest it, it is the 
death of that will; every act of death is an act of life, because the 
moment thou diest to nature thou livest to God. 

"The third Meditation today is still on the same subject — ^the 
Creation. I have seen how God created me in preference to so many 
souls who would have loved Him better than I have done, and this 
view touched me deeply. I represented to myself a great Lord who, 
free to take into his service a very capable domestic, would choose 
in preference a poor blockhead who would let his meat burn, break 
his dishes, etc., and keep her through charity in spite of all her waste 
and destruction. Is not this my portrait? Ah! how many graces I 
have lost and let fall to the ground! How many lights Jesus has 
given me, especially on the interior life, of which I have not profited 
because of my negHgence !" 

June 21. — "Today Jesus said to me: — Keep thy eye fixed on God. 
The more closely a soul is called to follow Me, the more mortified 
she should be. Perfect despoilment is the most necessary condition 
for union with God. To despoil oneself of an object is to leave it 
and never to take it again. So one must forsake her imperfect hab- 
its as she would cast aside a worn out garment never to wear it again. 
Clothe thyself with new garments which Love has prepared for 
thee. During this retreat I am making thee a trousseau which thou 
wilt have only to receive from My hand ; above all, I wish to trace 
for thee a special plan of humility, intense humility. When a soul 

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THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



is called here below to converse with God, she ought to be clothed 
with humility as God is clothed with glory. — My Jesus, what shall 
I do? — I am going to explain to thee, My Benigna; thou art the 
Benjamin of Love. Thou shouldst be clothed with humility, that is, 
all in thee should breathe humility. Humility will lead thee never 
to judge anyone; humility will lead thee to regard thyself as the 
servant of all ; humility will lead thee ever to accuse thyself. When 
a soul has been introduced by Love into this profound abyss of hu- 
mility, she walks securely and makes progress, for nothing can stop 
her." 

On the same day she writes: "This morning Jesus said: — Thou 
hast acted with a peace which ravishes My Heart; thou hast acted 
like a daughter of Love. My Benigna, thou knowest a little thorn 
may make a great rent, but if one is careful to take it out imme- 
diately, it leaves scarcely a trace. When thou art afraid of having 
displeased me, say at once ; My Jesus, if I have offended thee in any- 
thing, grant me the grace to repair it; and deign to enlighten me 
that another time I may better accomplish thy will. My Benigna, 
all that I do in thee is done with the end of establishing thee in 
peace. If God is to act in a soul He must find it in peace. When 
thou art not in peace thou neither hearest Me nor feelest My pres- 
ence, and yet I am in thee. — My Jesus, thou canst do all things, wilt 
Thou not take away my troubles? — No, My Benigna, because in 
taking them away, I would deprive thee of many graces. When I 
permit temptation, it is not through cruelty, but to give the soul 
an opportunity of merit. My love has a thousand inventions for 
enriching souls. The perfume of the lily differs from that of the 
carnation. I who am the Prince of Peace give thee the perfume 
of peace. Since thou receivest Me in thy heart every day in the 

Holy Communion, let all in thee exhale the perfume of peace 

I wish to give thee eyes to fix them on God, to fly to Him, in order 
that thou mayst dwell in the heights. 

"My Benigna, write: — Sanctity is composed of a multitude of 

little acts God, on His side, favors the soul with a multitude of 

graces to which she ought to correspond faithfully Do not think 

that to make a good retreat thou art obliged to meditate on hell. 
Thou wilt make this Meditation, but with Me in an atmosphere of 
love. The fruit thou must draw is a burning zeal to hinder souls 
from falling there. Moreover, in the Meditation the soul should ap- 
propriate only that which suits her. If thou make the considerations 



7! 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



on hell rigorously, without striving to reform what is imperfect in 
thee, thou wilt go out of the retreat just as thou didst enter it, where- 
as thou shouldst be transformed. I have already told thee that this 
retreat is not only for thee, but for souls. It is true that thou wouldst 
enjoy thy solitude better if thou wert not to write ; but he who makes 
a book does not keep the manuscript for himself ; he has it printed 
that all the world may have it ; so also, My Benigna, will thy writings 
be printed and will do good to a multitude of souls, which will aug- 
ment thy accidental glory in Paradise. 

"Wouldst thou give Me pleasure? Take the pen a moment and 
write: Annihilation of the creature before God is the summit of 
perfection. When a soul has arrived at such a point as to delight in 
self-contempt for the love of her God, she has attained the height of 
perfection. Benigna, when I find a soul who is willing to let Me do 
in her all that I desire, that soul becomes My Benjamin." 

On the following day, our dear Sister continues thus : — "Benigna," 
said Jesus, "now let us cooimence prayer. Thy interior state ought 
not to alarm thee ; it is known to Love, willed by Love, and ruled by 
the Love of a God. It seems to thee. My Benigna, that thou seest 
nothing, that thy soul goes from precipice to precipice ; but it is not 
so. Has he who is borne by another any need of seeing? These mo- 
ments are painful, but they are necessary; they are the moments of 
God, and the soul can do nothing better than to resign herself, be- 
lieve, adore and love Believe in love and thou wilt understand. 

A Religious is obliged to become holy, less for herself than to in- 
crease the glory of God. It is not an optional thing, but an obli- 
gation ; thou shouldst attain to sanctity, thou and the other Religious. 
Now, in what does sanctity consist ? In becoming as far as possible 
the living image of thy Spouse. Copy Me, copy Me constantly, and 
therefore have the eyes of thy soul ever fixed upon thy Jesus. To 
copy Me, I will that thou seek no other means than holy Observance. 
If thou art faithful to Observance according to the spirit, it will be 
easy to imitate Me in everything; but for this one must have the 
interior spirit. — My Jesus, do me the charity to break this bread to 
me, for I wish to commence seriously. 

"My Benigna, it is the Directory that leads the soul to the Con- 
stitutions; the Directory will vivify all thy actions. To be living, 
an action must be animated with the interior spirit. Count some of 
the actions thou dost in one day. If thou knowest how to vivify them 
all by the faithful practice of the Directory, what merits are amassed 



78 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



in a single day ! This is the hidden Hfe, in which she who disappears 
the most, bears the most fruits." — "And how shall I hide myself?" 
"By silence and humility. Robbers generally steal in the night so 
as not to be seen ; so also do thou seek the night of the common life 
to pass unperceived. Nothing hides a soul so well as the common 
life, not only from the eyes of others, but from her own eyes. The 
soul seeing nothing, believes she does nothing; but she does much 
more than if she accomplished extraordinary things. 

"Write, My Benigna : Let thy look be that of Jesus, always sweet 
and serene ; and when thou art suffering interior trials, be as smiHng 
as when thou beholdest Me with an intellectual view. This costs the 
soul, but here is found true virtue. As to thy exterior, if thou wilt have 
it resemble that of Jesus, plunge thyself in the consideration of thy 
nothingness; or, if thou wilt, in the remembrance of thy general 
confession ; this will give thee a touch of humility ; make the trial of 
it, whatever be thy resolution. I am going to give thee a spirit- 
ual bouquet, whose fragrance thou canst inhale the whole day: 
Whoever wishes to find me must seek me in the Heart of my Jesus. 
I am buried in the abyss of the Mercy of my Jesus/' 

As we progress in this marvellous Retreat of Love, we read again : 
— "My Benigna, I am going to speak a word of Love, not a w^ord 
of rigor, of justice, but a word of sweetness, of peace and consola- 
tion. Prepare for thy Solemn Profession with the Love of an in- 
finite God, All-Powerful, All-Merciful. My Infinity will attract 
to itself all thy miseries and consume them in an instant ; My Omni- 
potence will not only consume them, but will change them into so 
many precious stones, and My Mercy will effect great things in thy 
soul." 

On June 28 she writes: — "Sometimes during our prayer Jesus 
keeps me sweetly absorbed in Him, my only Love. He is so liberal 
that He floods me with His divine light even in the smallest details ; 
so that I am still with the Blessed Jesus in the Garden of Olives. — 
What ought I to do, O Jesus, write the beautiful things Thou hast 
told me, or else of this prayer? — I would have thee write also of 
this prayer ; it is always instructive for souls and shows them what 
need they have of breaking the Holy Gospel to pieces, of tasting it 
and digesting it. They should Hve of the Gospel, as they live on the 
air, on light, on food- Write as well as thou canst and I will make 
thy way of prayer understood." 

"Yesterday evening, Jesus had the goodness to give me these 



79 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



words as a point of Meditation : — Dost thou betray the Son of Man 
with a Kiss? — Then I received a special hght on these other words of 
the Blessed Jesus : — If you seek me, let these go their way. — I would 
have preferred the last subject, but Jesus told me amiably that the 
first sufficed. — By a kiss! — What is a kiss, then? A kiss is a sign of 
love; and yet Judas used it to betray Jesus. O how many times, 
under pretext of love for Jesus, have I assured myself in my ex- 
amen that I had not willed to offend my Lord, and consequently there 
could be no sin ! And in all these windings of self love which fetter 
the action of Divine Love in my soul, behold a kiss ! There is an 
appearance of love and it is an act of treason. O Jesus, I thank 
Thee for having given me a light so salutary ! I thank Thee, my 
Jesus ! Judas, in kissing the most Adorable Saviour, did not wound 
Him, did not bruise Him, even slightly ; yet with that kiss he made 
the first link in the chain of sufferings which began for Jesus in 
the Garden of Olives and ended by the death of the Cross! The 
Passion was the consequence of a kiss. O my Jesus, what a lesson ! 
Who can measure the consequences of one little act? Thou hast 
shown them to me this morning. When I write I would like some- 
times to add things which would turn to my advantage, but I have 
the light not to do it; I obey the inspiration with the intention of 
hindering, if possible, the diffusion of bad reading, or at least of 
preventing an author from inserting a pernicious article in his jour- 
nal. 

"Then Jesus said to me: — Every time thou hearest the clock 
strike, if it be not during an exercise, fall on thy knees in order to 
break thy will; thou canst only gain by it, for thus thou shalt be 
separated from the mire of earth and fly to the arms of God- O my 
Benigna, if souls had more faith, how much better they would un- 
derstand virtue ! If there are few saints it is because there are few 

mortified souls They ought to live on mortification as they live 

on bread, whereas they fly it as they would the plague But now 

I will leave thee to continue thy prayer. 

"That journal, into how many hands it will fall ! And thanks to 
an act of fidelity," continues our dear Sister, "I may be the cause 

of one evil article the less in its pages How sad it is to think that 

by our immortification and self seeking we may be guilty, so to say, 
of much evil which would not be committed if we had the generosity 
to conquer ourselves and thus draw down the divine light and grace 
upon souls!" 



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THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



On June 30, 1916, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sister 
Benigna Consolata, at the solicitation of her Divine Spouse, made 
her Solemn Profession with Love, in the presence of His Lord- 
ship, Monsignor our Bishop, and of our Most Honored Mother. She 
read aloud the formula of renovation of her Holy Vows : the Vow 
of doing all for Love, the Vow of Abandonment, the Sacrifice of 
her Life, the Vow of Perfection, and the Vow of Humility. The 
Sacrifice of her Life was not a vow in the beginning; she had made 
the offering in July, 191 5 ; but in September of that year she changed 
the offering into a vow. 

How can we portray the admirable dispositions of our dear Sis- 
ter on that beautiful day ! How tell her generous and heroic cor- 
respondence to the least impulse of grace ! How convey the love 
of God which invaded and consumed her heart ! How conceive the 
ineffable tendernesses of divine love shed upon her soul with a plen- 
itude measureless and indescribable ! Let us leave to her the office 
of revealing the secrets of Love, and draw some brief points from 
her memorandum of June 30: — 

"Jesus is always Jesus. It would take too long to write all He 
did for me on this blessed day ; and if I speak of it, may the glory 
be His alone ! — Benigna, He said, write for the glory of My Heart ; 
for when an artist makes beautiful things out of the meanest ma- 
terials, all the glory reverts to Him. — I have spent this happy day in 
the most profound peace ; Jesus has set me at Hberty, convincing 
me that my five private Vows will not be an increase of trial to 
me, but rather a means of deliverance; and He has explained them 
to me- 

*T asked Him afterward what He desired of me. He answered: 
— Thou hast eyes then read: What is here written in My Heart? 
Love Me! If thou lovest Me, thou wilt repair; if thou repair- 
est, thou wilt console Me ; and then thou wilt be a faithful spouse : 
Love, Reparation, Consolation, Fidelity. My Benigna, thou 
canst never love Me with all thy heart, as I wish to be loved 
by thee, unless thou dost hate thyself with all thy heart. Sac- 
rifice thy personal interests and gratifications to the greater glory of 
God. Thou wilt not be truly a repairer if thou art content to gaze su- 
perficially on the wounds sinners make in My Heart ; they must be 
examined closely. Sinners hate Me; do thou love Me with all thy 
strength; sinners blaspheme My Holy Name; do thou praise Me; 
sinners banish Me from their memory ; do thou keep Me ever present 



81 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



before thy mind, discarding every other thought. Let all thy actions 
bear the impress of Reparation and thou wilt console My Heart. Let 
thy life be a life of Love and Reparation. I wish to live in thee in 
this Monastery ; I wish to see with thy eyes, to speak with thy mouth, 
to hear with thy ears, to walk with thy steps, to labor with thy 
hands. 

"Today, June 30, 1916, is the day of thy Espousals with the God 
of Love, the God of Goodness, the God of Mercy. My Benigna, 
until now thou hast walked in the narrow way of fear, of trials, of 
anguish, of affliction of heart; My love planned this way; it had 
chosen it for thee; but in espousing the God of Love, the God of 
Peace, the God of Sweetness, thou wilt participate in the glory of 
God." 

Some days after, she records His words: — "My Benigna, spouse 
of Eternal Love, thou hast been introduced into the Cabinet of the 
Spouse ; if thou wilt not cease to be the Prediletta of God, the Fa- 
vorite of God, the Benjamin of God, thou must destroy nature by 
a rigorous mortification. Do not be frightened by what I am going 
to say to thee: When Love takes possession of a soul it is with 
a sort of amorous fury. A leaf carried away by the wind no longer 
touches the earth, it flies with the rapidity of the wind ; so it is with 
a soul which has become the prey of Love; she goes whither Love 
carries her, and is never dragged below by her infidelities Be- 
nigna, God speaks to thee, God instructs thee, God loves thee !" 

A little farther we read: — "As I attested to our Lord my desire 
to make His Mercy known to souls, He deigned to reply : Yes, thou 
canst do it ; thy writings are destined to make it known. Every word 
thou writest is a chanter of my Mercy. Write as much as possible, 
since I wish to make use of thee, poor little nothing.'' 

"Today, July 7th, having gone to make a Visit to our Sacramental 
Jesus, He said to me suddenly : — 'Go, my Benigna, because here thou 
enjoyest me, but there thou lovest Me.' — This is when I write; it 
pleases Jesus so much." 

''Arrived at the summit of perfection," writes Father Piccinelli in 
his eulogy of his saintly daughter, inundated with divine graces and 
favors, Sister Benigna Consolata, a true daughter of Holy Mary^ 
lost nothing of her self-effacement in the Community. We can in- 
dicate only two of her companions whose notice she attracted. 'Sis- 
ter Benigna Consolata, where did you learn the beautiful things you 
tell us in the Assembly after Vespers?' one of these two nuns 



82 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



asked her one day. 'From a Pious Author/ she answered 
unmoved. Jesus had suggested to her this response. And there in- 
vestigations ceased." 

While the Divine Spouse favored His Httle Benjamin, the wicked 
spirit with satanic hatred left no means untried to wrest her from 
Love and make her his own. If his temptations had always been 
frightful and tremendous^ now he assailed her with a fury so vehe- 
ment that she was crushed. The fear of her eternal condemnation 
and all that it implies most cruel and terrible, took possession of her 
mind and heart, and not able to bear up against it, she went all 
trembling and exhausted to take refuge near our Mother. In vain 
Her Charity strove to calm her, reminding her of the divine pre- 
dilection of Jesus for her soul, and the sweet names He had so 
often given her. "Ah, my Mother !" she exclaimed, melting into 
tears, "it seems to me all a dream; and if it were true, how many 
graces I have abused !" At last our Mother succeeded in repulsing 
the attacks of the enemy, and Sister Benigna Consolata, again calm 
and smiling, re-entered into the way of Love. On the same evening, 
our Lord told her that our Mother had merited more in accomplish- 
ing this act of exquisite spiritual charity, than if she had fasted a 
whole year on bread and water, so ardently He desires that souls 
should walk in the way of confidence and love, and shun the perilous 
rocks of distrust. 

Our beloved Sister was not to remain long with us. But before 
she was attacked by the inexorable disease which conducted her 
rapidly to the tomb, our Lord willed to give her a sweet consola- 
tion, that of seeing once more her former Director, the Reverend 
Canon Boccardo, whom she had not seen from her entrance into 
the Monastery. 

''Write to him to come quickly ; if he delays, he will regret it," 
Jesus had said to His little Secretary during her Retreat; and the 
latter sent him the divine message. The Canon Boccardo responded 
at once to the pressing invitation. He came, bearing with him the 
notes written by our dear Sister when she was in the world, which 
he had piously preserved. 

Great was the joy of the venerated Director and his dear daughter 
in meeting again. Sister Benigna Consolata would have been glad 
to open her whole soul to him who understood her so well and to 
whom she owed so much; to tell him the history, day by day, of 
those nine years ; to review with him the way she had travelled, now 

83 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



sown with flowers, now bristling with the thorns of temptation, to 
point out the rents made in the mantle of her perfection by the briers 
of self-inspection and her perpetual uncertainties. But the prudent 
Director needed not to learn all this ; he was satisfied to find her on 
the Mount of Lovers in the arms of Jesus. With gentle firmness 
he cut short all these reviews, preferring to employ those hours in 
heart-to-heart spiritual colloquies. It is easy to conjecture that the 
Angels deputed to guard our Monastery must have beheld burning 
flames arise, as formerly above the Convent where St- Benedict and 
St. Scholastica held their last heavenly colloquy. But time pressed ; 
the Canon Boccardo arrived in Como on the evening of July 5, and 
remained only the day following, the First Friday of the month. 
Before his departure, with the permission of our Most Honored 
Mother, he exchanged crucifixes with Sister Benigna Consolata, 
happy to bear away a souvenir of his dear daughter, who was to 
feast on the First Friday of September, not in this land of pain and 
tribulation, but in the Celestial Country amid the fullness of eternal 
joy and love. 

We were eager to welcome once more our angelic Sister, to inhale 
again the fragrance of her sweet virtues. O how long these twelve 
days of retreat seemed to us ! Yet when she returned to the Com- 
munity, we were all seized with an indescribable emotion. She 
seemed wholly under the dominion of the supernatural, something 
divine radiating from her personality, to such a point that several 
Sisters, through respect, dared not approach to embrace her, but con- 
tented themselves with expressing lovingly their happiness in seeing 
her again. It is written that Moses, after having conversed with 
God on the mountain, had to veil the glory of his countenance, the 
people being unable to look upon its splendor; and our dear Sister 
admitted to such close converse with the Spouse, appeared to us to 
be enveloped in a veil of modesty and self-contempt; but this veil 
was not thick enough to conceal entirely the marvels which the God 
of glory and love had operated in her. They divined that Sister 
Benigna Consolata had given place to an invisible and mysterious 
Being, who prayed, spoke, labored, recreated, in a word, acted in 
her and for her- We felt that her beautiful soul was being detached, 
little by little, from her body ; material things no longer touched her, 
although she performed with unvarying fidelity all the details of her 
daily duties. She pined to see her mortal ties broken, that free at 
last, she might fly to her Well-Beloved. The fire of love had long 



84 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



since consumed her; the flame went on increasing, and the sweet 
victim wasted away, day by day, exciting in our hearts serious ap- 
prehensions. 

We have said that our dear Sister had permission to hold sweet 
converse during the night with her God; but two hours would no 
longer suffice; now three, four, five hours flew by, swift as light- 
ning, for the happy Benjamin of Jesus. We questioned one another 
if the frail envelope could long hold out, if the angelic soul was not 
soon to take its flight to Heaven, the object of her ardent desires. 
Alas! our fears were too well founded. Toward the end of the 
month of July, Sister Benigna Consolata was attacked with the dis- 
ease which was to bear her away from us after a month of cruel 
sufferings. 

One day, not having been able to communicate, she complained 
of her coldness and indifference ; but her Divine Master comforted 
her: — "It is not indifference in thee, since during the night when 
thou wert so ill, thou wert preparing to do My will; and I gave 
thee many graces by thy spiritual Communion, although thou couldst 
not receive that which is proper to the Sacrament. A soul who is 
always united to My will through love, makes, so to say, a perpetual 
Communion." 

"My interior disposition," she writes, "is that of a profound 
peace. Jesus is detaching me from everything, even from the most 

holy things, as Confession and Holy Communion It is not that 

I esteem them less, but abandonment to God and union with His 
adorable will cause mine to be so lost in His that I can no longer 
find it." 



85 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



VII 



HER LAST ILLNESS; AFTER 



THE DARKNESS, ETERNAL 



LIGHT 



On the 3rd of August, our dear Sister changed her cell for the 
Infirmary. On reaching the gallery called the Tribune, where the 
sick Sisters hear Mass, she entered with a tottering step to 
make a little Visit to her Jesus, offering herself anew as a victim 
to His love and His divine good pleasure. The three first days she 
was deprived of Holy Communion; but after the First Friday, It 
was borne to her every morning until her death. Once as she la- 
mented her want of fervor in preparing to receive her God, He 
deigned to console her: — "Benigna, the best preparation thou canst 
make, is to trust in Me. To love Me as a spouse is more easy, to 
suffer as a spouse is more meritorious ; thy sufferings will go on 
increasing. Thou must needs lend Me thy body for suffering ; and I 
will send thee great interior trials, to give thee the merit of cutting 
them short by obedience." 

In fact, the sufferings of our beloved patient were augmented every 
day. Anguish of spirit and terrible attacks of the demon were added 
to her physical sufferings. Her frequent fainting spells were fol- 
lowed by convulsions- She experienced acute pains, especially in 
the left shoulder, while she was always in a burning fever. She 
said often to our Mother : — *'0 my Mother, how I suffer ! but I am 
happy." And again: — "The little lamb is on the funeral pyre, and 
the flames are beginning to scorch her." One evening we saw her 
suddenly seized with profound emotion; she melted into tears, and 
on our inquiring the cause, she answered: — "I weep because I see 
Jesus, who is doing Himself violence to make me suffer; He is 
forced to it, having chosen me for a victim ; but it costs Him to hide 
from me His love." Then, looking with ineffable tenderness upon 

86 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



a picture of the Sacred Heart : — "I know Thou lovest me, O Jesus ! 
I believe in Thy love for me !" 

Our Lord foretold to her a night of great sufferings, and spoke to 
to her at length of the efficacy of holy water to repulse the attacks 
of the infernal spirit, adding that the presence of the Superior who, 
in virtue of her charge, is like the Ostensorium of God, would be for 
her a shield of defense. Another time He told her that in absence 
of the Superior, she should be surrounded by her Sisters, for, being 
the temples of the Holy Ghost, they would protect her powerfully. 

On the 14th, she expressed a desire to receive Extreme Unction ; 
she prepared for it with great fervor and received it with joy on 
the same day, at two o'clock in the afternoon. She begged Jesus to 
make her suffer still more. — "Yes, my Jesus, still more/' she said; 
"beat, beat Thy ass, but give me souls, and close hell so that no one 
may ever fall into it. O if I knew that by suffering, not only 
during weeks, months, years, but even to the end of the world, if 
possible, I could glorify my God and save souls for Him, meriting 
nothing, it seems to me that I would willingly endure all sorts of 
afflictions; not alone, but with Jesus always near me, assisting me 
and speaking to me continually. He often calls me, My Nigna, My 
Joy." 

On the evening of the same day, Monsignor our Bishop visited 
her. She could not cease expressing to him her happiness in suffer- 
ing and in suffering for love, adding that this day she was suffering 
for priests. This great inebriation of joy in suffering lasted till 
toward the 20th of August ; she had prayed Jesus on the First Fri- 
day of the month to grant her grace to suffer cheerfully, and she had 
obtained it. Indeed, she had never appeared so bright and cheerful 
as during her sickness. Always sweet and cordial, yet she had been 
serious and concentrated. As soon as she was settled in the infirm- 
ary, she took on a gayety and amiability that charmed us. 

On the Feast of the Assumption, Sister Benigna Consolata saw 
all the Community. She begged us to chant the canticle : 

''Al cieU al del, al del, "To Heaven, to Heaven, to Heaven, 

Andro a vederla un di — I go to see Her one day, — 

La dolce Madre mia. The lovely Madre mia, 

Andro veder Maria." I go to see Maria !" 

And while the Sisters with anguish in their hearts and the chant 
upon their lips, gratified her desire, she was radiant with happiness. 
Smiling sweetly, she bade adieu to all as if she were going to a Feast 



87 



Sister Benign a Consolata Ferrero 



long sighed-for and most dear. 

But before crossing the threshold of eternity, she had to traverse 
terrible hours, hours of darkness, of supreme purification. The con- 
flict commenced. At first there were doubts on the predilection of 
Jesus for her soul, fears that she had deceived Superiors in speaking 
of the **Voice," fears that her writings were all Hes, her life an im- 
posture. Obedience alone had power to restore her to peace; but 
when calm returned she was exhausted, prostrate, like a warrior 
after a long combat. "My Mother," said she, "Jesus assures me 
that I am assailed, not by a single enemy, but by a legion of demons 
who surround me." And another time: — "My Mother, the demon 
oppresses me, crushes me as a person would who, having thrown a 
man to the ground, puts his knee on his breast to suffocate him." 

On August 22, she had a vision which she records in a few words : 
— "I seemed to see the Holy Church — the Sovereign Pontiff, all the 
Bishops and Priests engaged in a great battle : everyone there had his 
portion of suffering. Our Lord explained to me that my sickness 
had also a mission. The devil was furious at this vision and 
ceased not to afflict me; but supported by obedience I remained 
firm." A little later she adds : — "Jesus speaks to me continually : He 
tells me ineffable things which He would have me write, but I feel 
too exhausted." One evening during Matins there was a tremen- 
dous storm : the hail fell with such violence that a great number of 
windows in our little Church and in the Monastery were broken. 
"My Mother," exclaimed our Sister, "what a frightful tempest ! Well, 
the rage of the demon against me is like this." 

Our dear Sister spent the 28th of August plunged in a sea of sor- 
row, interior and exterior, as our Lord had foretold to His Benja- 
min. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when the supreme 
struggle commenced. We will pass in silence the details of these 
truly frightful hours, during which Jesus seemed to have abandoned 
His spouse to the power of the enemy- Her serene countenance so 
transformed as scarcely to be recognized, a prey to convulsive agi- 
tation, she repeated frequently as if under his influence "I am lost," 
and many other words which had never crossed her angelic lips. 
Rarely, we believe, does God permit His servants to be tried so far. 
The immense good that was to be effected by the example and writ- 
ings of our dear Sister explains such an assault. But hell, in declar- 
ing itself openly against the elect spouse of our Lord, has only con- 
firmed her celestial mission. 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



Nothing less than the presence of Monsignor our Bishop, and the 
holy exorcisms, had power to force Satan to leave his victim. But 
the hour of deliverance sounded at last. Toward midnight, Sister 
Benigna Consolata resumed her natural appearance ; her sweet smile 
came back ; and our Confessor having told her that during these ter- 
rible moments she ought to consider herself as the prisoner of the 
Heart of Jesus, condemned to remain in that Divine Heart for all 
Eternity, she cried out joyously: — "Benigna, prisoner of Jesus!" 

During the following days there was a recurrence of these assaults 
but with less violence: a word of obedience, a pious hymn, or the 
suggestion of a holy thought sufficed to restore her to peace. 

As soon as the conflict had ceased. Sister Benigna appeared to us 
transfigured. Her countenance shone with a childlike innocence so 
ravishing, that we could not look upon it without thinking of the 
adorable features of the Infant Jesus. 

During her illness her abandonment, mortification and obedience 
were admirable. In its early stages she said to our Honored Mother : 
— "If Your Charity knew, my Mother, how Our Lord teaches me 
to practice mortification and not allow a single occasion to escape! 
At times when they bring me milk, I experience a strong repugnance, 
and Jesus wishes that I should take it with my most beautiful smile. 
At other times I am stifled with the heat and would like the fresh 
air ; but the charitable Sister Inf irmarian, seeing me in a perspiration, 
closes the curtain of the bed to protect me; nature is not pleased, 
but grace forces me to express my thanks- When my tired eyes 
would be glad of the darkness, they give me light ; often one of our 
Sisters proposes to make my reading, when I would more willingly 
repose in silence to listen to the voice of Jesus : but He wishes that 
I should profit of every opportunity to mortify myself and renounce 
my own will." 

The dear patient, being consumed with a burning fever and in 
consequence always thirsty, some refreshment was brought to her 
now and again, and at times ice. She said that when the Sister In- 
firmarian offered her the cup, if she had not held it, she would have 
swallowed the contents in a single draught; but through mortifica- 
tion she took it slowly and desisted after two spoonfuls. Our 
Mother inquiring why she did so, she replied: — "My Mother, our 
Lord stopped me, saying. This is enough, Nigna. After having 
taken the necessary relief, thou wilt only gratify nature." Our good 
Mother endeavored to protect her from the flies ; but she graciously 



89 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



refused, saying that she might well support that little annoyance to 
honor the sufferings of Jesus, who on the Cross having His hands 
nailed, could not give Himself the least Httle relief. 

She had the happiness of communicating every day. One morning 
during her thanksgiving she held her hands under the coverlet: — 
"Benigna," said Jesus, "put thy hands outside, and keep them joined, 
at least for some minutes ; let no occasion escape of doing better, 
not to acquire merit, since thou must do all through love, but to 
glorify God." Once she cast a glance between the curtains of her 
bed to see one of our Sisters who was passing through the corridor ; 
she reproached herself immediately and acknowledging it to our 
Mother, she added ; — "In this moment so grave, when I am prepar- 
ing to appear before the tribunal of God, I ought not to permit my- 
self such satisfactions." 

Our good Mother assisted her day and night, lavishing upon her 
the most delicate attentions. "My Mother," she said one morning af- 
ter Holy Communion ; "Our Lord has suggested a good practice of 
mortification ; will you permit me to make it ? O do not say no !" — 
"Yes," replied our Mother, "provided it does not aggravate your ill- 
ness; what is it?" — "If Your Charity will permit, instead of ab- 
sorbing the morsel of ice given to refresh me, I will hold it between 
my teeth ; this will pain them ; I will offer it to repair sacrileges, evil 
discourse, blasphemies and imprecations ; it will be one suffering 
more, but Jesus gives me such a desire to suffer, that I would cry 
out ; Lord, yet more ! There remains so little time to live, that I may 
well bear pain without relief." 

Our dear Sister was always docile to the prescriptions of the 
physicians. Obedient also to the Sister Infirmarian and to those 
who watched during the night, Sister Benigna Consolata asked for 
nothing, refused nothing. She never looked at the thermometer to 
note the degree which the fever had reached. Once she humbly 
accused herself of having unconsciously cast her eyes on the sheet 
which recorded the temperature, and which was near her bed. 

Her brother, Signor Camillo Ferrero, came several times to see 
her during her illness; she was then conducted to the parlor in a 
little carriage. After his last visit the disease had made such great 
progress that this privilege had to be renounced. Her brother, there- 
fore, while in the parlor wrote an affectionate farewell letter. When 
it was finished, our Mother hastened to bear it to the patient, who 
awaited it with sisterly impatience- She took the letter and opened 



90 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



it with joy, but immediately returned it to our Mother, saying : "Our 
Lord requires of me this sacrifice." — "But at least give me an answer 
for your brother, who is waiting." — "My Mother," replied our hum- 
ble Sister, "do as Your Charity thinks proper; I feel that Jesus 
wills this proof of love from me." Habituated to sacrifice, this 
generous soul would have felt remorse had she let a single opportu- 
nity escape. Yet we know how tenderly she loved her relatives. Dur- 
ing the last days of her Hfe, in moments of delirium, she named them 
all with affection. 

Her brother Camillo, as soon as he learned the gravity of her 
illness, asked and obtained from our Superiors, leave for a consul- 
tation with his cousin, Doctor Gurgo, professor of the Cottolengo 
Institute, Turin. Our physician willingly consented, and Doctor 
Gurgo soon arrived. The sight of her dear cousin recalled to Sister 
Benigna Consolata many sweet remembrances ; she would naturally 
have desired to ask him many questions, to inquire about her be- 
loved relatives, and give him affectionate messages for all; but, 
faithful to the inspirations of grace, she said not a word to gratify 
her desire, and contented herself with presenting him a little picture 
as a memory. The interior conflict and generous victory gained by 
his cousin did not escape the keen eye of the eminent professor; he 
was profoundly edified, and in departing he said to our Honored 
Mother: — "What I have just seen does not astonish me; I have 
known Maria Consolata from her infancy, and I have always seen 
her practice extraordinary virtues." He afterward thanked our 
devoted doctor for the cares he had lavished upon the dear patient ; 
the latter, on his side, expressed his admiration for the virtues of our 
angeHc Sister. 

"I know not even the name of my disease," she said at times; 
"this does not concern me. O what peace is in the couper-courtl When 
the thought comes that such a thing would do me good, or that such 
another would do me harm, I cut it short instantly, saying. This 
does not concern me. Will my sufferings last a long time? When 
shall this martyrdom finish? Shall I preserve my consciousness to 
the end? This does not concern me. O how dear to Jesus is this 
abandonment in sickness! Nature shudders, but grace makes us 
say yes to all. I belong to myself no longer, I belong to Love ! With- 
out an extraordinary grace I could not bear smilingly so many suf- 
ferings at the same time ; my heart throbs as if it would burst ; my in- 
terior is all on fire ; my shoulders sore and painful ; my feet seem 

91 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



nailed to the bed. My eyes also have their special sufferings ; now 
everything appears green, now a great light dazzles me, and again 
my head is besieged with all those thoughts that Your Charity 
knows. But it is justice ; for every day of sickness has the mission 
of expiating the sins of a year of life." 

Those thoughts of which our dear Sister speaks, were insinua- 
ted into her mind by the evil spirit. He tempted her to pride, to dis- 
trust, to despair. She baffled his wiles by discovering them to our 
venerated Ecclesiastical Superiors or to our Mother. When Her 
Charity was absent and the temptation returned. Sister Benigna 
Consolata humbly begged the Sister on watch to call her: **The 
enemy fears authority," she remarked, "and when our Mother is 
near me his assaults are less furious." At times the chanting of 
a pious hymn sufficed to divert the temptations of the demon, as 
formerly the melodious harp of David calmed the agitations of 
Saul. 

After so many physical and moral sufferings, the great day of 
deliverance came at last for the privileged spouse of Jesus. On the 
1st of September, which was the First Friday of the month, our 
edifying patient was able to receive for the last time the Holy Via- 
ticum, after which she declined from hour to hour, preserving to 
the end her full consciousness. Frequently with great fervor she 
murmured the sacred names of Jesus and Mary. Toward half past 
one she recited with pain, but intelligibly, the act of contrition. At 
half past two our Confessor entered to renew the holy Absolution 
and recite the prayers for the Recommendation of the Departing 
Soul- At three o'clock, while she rested peacefully in the arms of 
our Mother, Sister Benigna Consolata opened her eyes suddenly, ap- 
peared to fix them on a distant and luminous point, and expired 
sweetly. The Confidant of Jesus had gone to be united to the Heart 
of her God! 

The whole Community was present and profoundly afflicted at 
our loss. Our Confessor was finishing the Suhvenite when our ven- 
erated Spiritual Father, who had so desired to assist at this blessed 
death, entered the room. He prayed a moment, then turning to- 
ward us, spoke words of comfort and fatherly affection to our griev- 
ing hearts. In the evening, Msgr. our Bishop came to kneel near 
our regretted Sister, who on her bed, surrounded with flowers and 
covered with a large white veil, resembled the virgins of the Cat- 
acombs, radiant with the glory of martyrdom. Far from inspiring 

92 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus' 



fear, the Benjamin of Jesus attracted us sweetly to her; a celestial 
calm shone in her countenance ; she seemed smiling at Eternal Love. 
A few days before her death she had said to some of our Sisters who 
were giving her their commissions for Heaven: — "I will send you 
treasures of happiness from Heaven." In fact, our grief for her 
loss was softened by a veritable effusion of joy, which sweetly di- 
lated our hearts. Near her we seemed to be breathing the fragrance 
of Paradise- 

Our good Bishop postponed the funeral till Sunday, September 
3rd, that we might have the consolation of gazing longer on those 
angelic features. On that day he had the kindness to celebrate the 
Holy Mass in our little Church, and pronounce a eulogy on the reli- 
gious virtues which had shone so conspiciously in that elect soul. 
His Lordship deigned to follow the modest funeral procession with 
the brother and sister of the deceased, both plunged in profound sor- 
row. The numberless testimonies of esteem given by our eminent 
Prelate to our regretted Sister Benigna Consolata made us feel still 
more our loss. May these unanimous regrets, we may say veneration, 
soften the affliction of these dear relatives, especially that of her 
father, and penetrate them with a holy pride for having given to 
the Church of God, in these sad times, such a religious as our Holy 
Founders desire: — "A daughter of sweet odor, of celestial col- 
loquies." 

The mortal remains of Sister Benigna Consolata repose, with our 
dear deceased Sisters in the cemetery of Camerlata. On her tomb, 
already the scene of pious pilgrimages, a white Cross extends its 
arms, and on it we read these words : Alpha et Omega. 

Yes, Jesus was the beginning and the end of all her actions, the 
luminous pharos which conducted happily His little barque safe 
to the port. 

May we imitate the virtues of our angelic Sister, and put in prac- 
tice the divine instructions which remain to us a precious heritage; 
we shall thus become true Hosts consumed with the love of the 
Heart of Jesus. 



Deus Laudetur! 



93 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



Excerpts from the Circular of the 

Honored Mother Josephine Antoinette Scazziga, 

Superior of the Visitation at Como, Lombardy from May, 191 3, to 
May, 1919, the greater part of the Religious Life of Sister Benigna 
Consolata. — Dated January 20th, 1919, and addressed to the 
Honored Mothers of the Order 

When for the first time, six years ago, God placed on my 
shoulders the heavy cross of Superiority, the contemplation of my 
weakness oppressed my soul with a mortal anguish. I felt abso- 
lutely wanting in those solid virtues required by this charge, as se- 
rious as delicate. Then descending into the centre of my nothingness, I 
embraced the holy Will of God, which takes pleasure in manifesting 
its power in misery, and I rose to Him with my only riches — the in- 
digence of the poor 

The chosen flock which God intrusted to me from the hands of our 
never-to-be-forgotten Mother Maria Louisa Sobrero, inspired me at 
the same time with fear and hope. I aspired to make it more worthy 
of the favors of the Divine Lamb, yet I feared my incapacity. Tak- 
ing refuge, nevertheless, under the mantle of the Immaculate Vir- 
gin Mary, our tender Mother, and ascending with her blessed aid 
to the most loving Heart of Jesus, I intrusted to Him this dear 
Community, and abandoned everything to His care 

Then calm was established in my soul My only solicitude was 

that the supernatural seeds sown by the Celestial Gardener in the 
souls of His dear spouses, should bring forth fruits. Not content 
with sowing the good grain, He caused it to spring up and ripen- 
His Heart, overflowing with love, rewarded my confidence with the 
happy experience that the more real my nothingness was, the more 
surely He would pour out His gifts in souls, and operate in them 
Himself. 

Among all these dear Daughters, Jesus had reserved for me in 
His eternal designs, the Benjamin of His Heart, a precious jewel 
which, we believe, will increase "the humble glory" of our Visitation, 
and embellish the crown of our Holy Founders- The Abridgment 
of the Life and Virtues of our angelic Sister Benigna Consolata Fer- 
rero has been sketched in broad outline ; for the eagerness of all to 
know her, left us scarcely time to glean here and there, from the 

94 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



divine instructions of her Adorable Master. Nevertheless, the orig- 
inal Italian — already in its third edition, and spread rapidly from 
one extremity of our dear country to the other — gives a fair idea of 
her life to the reader. Besides the brevity imposed by circumstances, 
v^e deplore the impossibility of presenting the life to our beloved 
Houses until now in the language of the Institute/^) Our dear Sisters 
of Montpellier, with most delicate and exquisite charity, offered to 
make a translation. We thank them anew for their great kindness, and 
take delight in the thought of the good their labor will produce, not 
only in our Order, but in elect pious souls, who will discover there the 
admirable effusions of the "Tendernesses" of the Divine Heart. 

Esiirientes implevit bonis. How incomparable is the sweetness 
of our God, how infinite His power! With empty hands we went 
to Him at the beginning of our government ; and behold at the mo- 
ment of being deposed from the Office, He loads us with riches ! Ah, 
who will not confess that the soul that trusts in Him shall never be 
confounded ! 

It is with the precious Vade Meciim, the first diamond of so many 
treasures, that with emotion and gratitude, we embrace affectionately 
the Most Honored Mothers and Sisters of our dear Monasteries, 
who througout these six years have shown us so much affection. 

Through the hands of our venerated Mother Louise Eugenie 

Berard, we lay on the shrines of our Holy Founders the first copy of 
the Vade Mccum, translated and printed in French through the kind- 
ness of our dear Lyon-Fourviere Our dear Holy Father and Mother 

will exult, we feel sure, since their dear Daughter Benigna of Jesus, 
truly "a daughter of good odor, a daughter of celestial colloquies." 
attained so high a degree of perfection and received such wonderful 
graces from the most sweet Heart of Jesus, only in consequence of 
her great fidelity in the exact observance of the holy Laws which 
they have given us. We intrust to our good God our debt of grat- 
itude to this dear Monastery of Lyon-Fourviere, which has de- 
voted itself with such cordial activity to insure a wider and easier 
circulation of His merciful "Tendernesses." 

During the lifetime of our young Sister Benigna Consolata, we 
sought to accomplish the will of Jesus {Pious Author) by putting 
in print "The Way of the Cross," dictated, word for word, to His 
Benjamin. Immediately after her death, the Prayers, Decalogues, 

(i). The Circulars of the Order are in the French language. 

95 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



and Maxims were added, and published under the title of Vade 
Mecum. If the work was hastened, it was only that in many places 
of the Writings of the Little Secretary of Jesus, souls might the 
sooner read how that loving Heart throbs with desire to make known 
to all the merciful manifestations of His love. 

What shall we say to Your Charities of the sojourn among us of 
the new little Confidant of the Sacred Heart, heiress in this sense, 
of her immortal Elder Sister and Precursor, Margaret Mary, about 
to be crowned by the Holy Church with the aureole of the Saints ; of 
her who, in a word, after the example of our Venerable Mother Mary 
de Sales Chappuis, attracts all hearts powerfully in the way of inti- 
macy with the Saviour, a way which, in His merciful designs, is des- 
tined to assume a marvellous development in these modern times, 

steeped in materialism and indifference? Sweet and humble, tranquil 

and recollected, angelic in her demeanor as in her words, our Sis- 
ter Benigna Consolata made it her supreme aim to efface herself 
in the sight of the Community. She succeeded so well that, while 
all admired her virtue, her Sisters were far from suspecting what 
treasures she kept jealously hidden in the depths of her heart. But 
when, on the ist of September, 1916, the First Friday of the month, 
the passionate Lover of Jesus bade us adieu to go and abyss herself 
in His Adorable Heart, the perfumes of the broken alabaster vase 
were shed with such profusion that "the whole house was embalmed." 
Then they learned the affluence of celestial favors, of marvellous 
graces, and above all, of solid virtues, that adorned that beautiful 
soul- The precious balm was propagated, not only among our dear 
neighboring Communities, but to those in far distant regions. The 
death of this humble child was indeed a complete revelation. Here 
she has left us, in a very special manner, a powerful stimulus to 
strive to rejoin her in her way of confidence, intimacy and love. 

We solicit your spiritual assistance most earnestly for our zeal- 
ous Ananias, the Very Reverend Canon D. Antonio Piccinelli, recent- 
ly exalted to the dignity and title of Msgr. the Vicar General of 
this vast Diocese- His profound humility had not power to keep 
his merit hidden, as he desired and the choice of our Bishop fell 
upon him. Although by this appointment the field of his labors will 
be considerably enlarged, our venerated Prelate will continue with 
wonderful kindness to exercise among us his fatherly ministries. 
(It will be remembered that this saintly Father was Confessor and 
Guide to Sister Benigna Consolata during her whole religious life, 



96 



THE "Little Secretary of Jesus" 



and that God made known to her his sanctity several times in a su- 
pernatural manner.) 



AFTERWORD. 



Three Years have scarcely glided by since our angelic Sister Be- 
nigna Consolata took her flight to her Beloved ; yet we may say with- 
out exaggeration that her name, her humble writings, are already 
known to the world. From the remote regions of America, Ire- 
land, England, even from the coasts of Africa, come continual re- 
quests for a brief life of the Sister and some of her writings ; and 
not infrequently we receive joyous communications of favors ob- 
tained through her protection, — cures and other helps attributed by 
pious souls to her intervention. 

In truth, people are pressing and insistent in their demands for 
her precious writings, her picture, and the little "Vade Mecum'', 
as well as leaflets bearing excerpts from her ''Jo^^^^l/' translated 
into French, EngHsh and Spanish, which are being rapidly diffused. 
This humble Religious so avid of the hidden life, of being buried 
in the lowly ways of humility and self-effacement, shines today with 
a splendor so striking, an attractiveness so sweet, that everywhere 
her picture or brief passages from her writings, draw souls to her 
with bonds so potent and irresistible, that they are prompted to 
invoke her intercession. Her efficacious assistance is felt by all. 
So well this dear Religious keeps her promise of making herself 
all to all; that charity whose ardent flame consumed her soul on 
earth, is made perfect today in the enjoyment of her God, and she 
finds her delight in consoling whoever has recourse to her. 

The graces so obtained are already innumerable and diverse, both 
in the spiritual and temporal order. As to the first, we may signal- 
ise the solving of many painful problems, the removal of difficul- 
ties, anguish of mind dispelled as if by enchantment, and consol- 
ing conversions to God. We see peace and tranquillity restored 
to troubled hearts ; confidence and love establishing their empire on 
the ruins of distrust and fear; and, above all, numerous germs of 

97 



Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero 



religious vocations unfolding, thanks to the influence of this be- 
loved of the Divine Heart. Sister Benigna Consolata is a sweet and 
prompt benefactor, who cannot resist the supplications of afflicted 
and confiding souls- 



Here follow in the record of our Sisters of Como, several pages 
narrating cures and other favors which have been obtained through 
the intercession of the "Little Secretary of Jesus" during the years 
since her death in various provinces of Italy and in adjoining coun- 
tries. 



May we not cherish an unfailing confidence that Sister Benigna 
Consolata, Apostle of the Mercy of Jesus, will exert the plenitude 
of her influence over His Sacred Heart in favor of our own dear 
country? May we not induce her to scatter over our United States 
some of the treasures which Jesus has given her to distribute? And 
her holy example — is it not destined to stimulate faithful souls to a 
more exalted perfection and union with God by the way of sacrifice 
He taught her ; to draw souls from the darkness of unbelief and the 
corruption of vice; to lay bare to tempted souls the snares of the 
evil spirit, and deliver them, through the promises made her by 
Jesus after her own frequent and astounding victories over the ma- 
lign enemy? 

We cannot forbear giving to our readers a letter from an eminent 
ecclesiastic, which speaks volumes in favor of the seraphic Nun 
whose brief career on earth has been marked with such extraor- 
dinary effusions of divine grace. It is from the hand of the Rever- 
end Father J. B. Lemius, former Superior of the Chaplains of Mont- 
martre, renowned for learning and piety, and especially for his ex- 
traordinary devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus- It was written 
to her whose wise and loving direction urged Sister Benigna 
Consolata ever forward up the steeps of sanctity, the Honored 
Mother Josephine Antoinette Scazziga of Como. 

My very Honored Mother, 

The Sacred Heart of Jesus overflows with love and mercy at 
this turning point in the History of the Church, and stimulates us 
more than ever to confidence and love. 

The Visitation remains the chosen organ to repeat to the world 

q8 



THE ^'Little Secretary of Jesus' 



the sweet appeals, the ineffable promises of the Divine Master, and 
the heartrending cries of His unappreciated tenderness. 

The dear Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero, of Como, affords a 
new proof of this divine mission. 

How ravishing and consoling are the pages of the Vade Mecum, 
first of the writings dictated by the Pious Author, whom we invoke 
by saying ; Pie Jesu ! The Canon Saudreau, our acknowledged Master 
in Mysticism, writes me that he recognizes the accent of Our Lord, 
as we recognize the accent of a traveler from a foreign land. 

Authoritative voices, I trust, will encourage you; zealous souls 
of all countries will aid you in passing from hand to hand, and in 
spreading everywhere the celestial writings of the privileged Sec- 
retary of the Sacred Heart. Poor sinners will not be afraid to 
throw themselves into the arms of the Merciful Jesus; pious souls 
in the world and in the cloister will no longer find an obstacle to 
love. 

May we be favored without delay with the holy Hfe and all the 
works of the sweet Benigna ! 

I am most grateful to you, my very Honored Mother, for having 
made her known to me. Accept the expression of my religious de- 
votedness in the Sacred Heart. 

J. B. Lemius. 

Bordeaux, February 27, 1919. 



Conformably to the decrees of Urban VHI, we declare that we 
attribute a purely human belief alone to all that is contained in this 
biography. 



99 



THE CONTENTS. 

Page 
Foreword 5 

I. Birth of Maria Consolata : Her Childhood and Early Youth 7 

II. First Divine Communications (From Her Diary) 12 

III. In the Holy Ark : Postulant, Novice, Professed Nun 34 

IV. Her Humility, Obedience, Mortification, Charity 49 

V. Her Union with the Superior : Supernatural Gifts : 

Way of Confidence and Love 62 

VI. Retreat of Love: Her Solemn Profession with Love 75 

VII. Her Last Illness : After the Darkness, Eternal Light 86 

Excerpts from Circular of Como 94 

Afterword „ 97 

The Contents „ loi 



LIBRARY OF CONGRESS ^ 



019 566 672 6